Leadership for Justice: Engaging Communities, Transforming Policing
“And though we may be uncertain about the greater meaning of the recent tragedies, we can be sure of what we must do in response: summon our courage, be generous with our compassion, stand by our principles, aspire to learn and understand what we can from these terrible occurrences, and demonstrate our determination to change things – because things surely cannot be permitted to go on as they are.”
- NYU President Andrew Hamilton, The Recent Incidents of Violence Across the US, July 8, 2016
"We commend those who are helping the nation understand the importance of coming to terms with the legacy of racial oppression and its consequences for the criminal justice system. This is a historical imperative of the first order. As an educational institution, we are especially impressed by the young people around the country, of all races, who have raised their voices for justice. Like generations before them, they are eager to improve the world."
-John Jay President Jeremy Travis, Important Announcement to the College Community, July 12, 2016
May 18-20, 2017, New York City
The 2017 Summit brought together 50 undergraduate students from New York University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice for a three-day intensive leadership development program in New York City. At the Summit, students were invited to think critically about a challenge facing their global community and develop the leadership skills needed to take action and create meaningful impact. The challenge we explored at Summit was "Leadership for Justice: Engaging Communities, Transforming Policing."
The Summit, hosted by the NYU Leadership Initiative, the NYU Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, Global Spiritual Life at NYU and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, offered students an opportunity to examine, from a systems perspective, policing practices and their impact on the communities they serve. Students then considered the role of inclusive leadership in achieving justice.
Students participated in conversations with speakers representing diverse perspectives on this issue, peer-to-peer learning and hands-on skill-development workshops to advance their capacity for leadership. As part of the program, students worked on a real-world challenge proposed by the Vera Institute of Justice and Performing Statistics and generated ideas to advance their mission and goals.
The program aimed to help students make sense of current policing structures and practices and how they impact communities of color, particularly black communities. Students examined policing from a “systems” perspective in order to understand the history and context surrounding it and explore the roles they might play to affect change. Students learned to consider the type of leadership required to transform how police engage with communities of color.
The relationship between police and communities of color has a longstanding history of tension and division in the United States, more recently heightened by ongoing incidents of police killings of black people, police brutality and lack of police accountability, on top of continued racial profiling and racial inequity in the United States criminal justice system. Protest and uprising have birthed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, an ideological and political intervention that broadens the conversation around state violence toward Black people (blacklivesmatter.com). Responses to the BLM movement are incredibly polarized and some have gone as far as to create countermovements. In addition, the 2016 election of Donald Trump as 45th president of the United States following a largely anti-immigrant campaign, poses new concerns over the impact of policing practices on Muslim communities and undocumented immigrants. Evidently, the challenges of our time are neither new nor simple, and they require new approaches to leadership to achieve justice.
How do we lead towards justice and for transformation in situations where there is such a large divide? This was the central question behind the Summit 2017 theme.
These growing national incidents have generated attention at NYU, John Jay, and campuses across the country and challenges the core values we seek to uphold in our communities: safety, fairness, justice, inclusiveness, diversity and equity. As we seek to lead towards justice, how do we act in alignment with these core values?
We believe this work begins with raising awareness and consciousness around these issues through a systems approach, accounting for the history and context that has led us to this place. We must then cultivate meaningful relationships across difference in order to build coalitions and rethink leadership as a process of working inclusively with others toward a shared vision, aligning actions towards shared goals and achieving impact for the greater good.
The 2017 Summit offered students an opportunity to:
- Examine policing structures and practices from a “systems” perspective and assess their impact on the communities they serve. Students heard from and worked alongside experts to identify key players and structural forces that produce and sustain current dynamics; learned about historical and present contexts that inform current tensions; critically analyzed underlying issues and how they manifest in the present context.
- Rethink leadership as collective work. Through group discussions and collaborative action planning, students examined the role that leadership plays in helping individuals and organizations actualize collective achievements.
- Develop their capacity for ethical, inclusive and collaborative leadership for justice. Students participated in hands-on skill-development workshops to grow their leadership capacity.
- Take action by partnering with local organization.
Students also learned from the Vera Institute of Justice and Performing Statistics, a project of ART 180 and Legal Aid Justice Center that connects incarcerated and formerly youth, artists and Virginia’s top legal experts to transform the juvenile justice system. As part of this work, students participated in a real-world challenge to advance the work of partner organizations.
- Extend the impact of the Summit to other student communities next academic year. Students reflected on their experience and developed a project to share skills or knowledge gained on this topic with peers.
Applications for the 2017 Global Leadership Summit are now closed.
The selection committee reviewed each candidate carefully from a competitive pool of applications. Participants were selected based on the quality of their whole application, including essays and recommendation letters. The most competitive applicants displayed an interest in the Summit theme, leadership potential, strong communication skills, ability to work collaboratively across difference and commitment to learning and growth.
Students selected to participate in the program met the following criteria:
- Show leadership potential through formal or informal roles in academic projects, extracurricular or service activities, internships or jobs
- Demonstrate the ability to build community while working with others across difference
- Exhibit interest in the program and a commitment to learning from peers and contributing to their growth
- Have sophomore or junior status during the academic year 2016-2017
- Be in good academic and disciplinary standing