A protestor holds up a sign reading “Justice for Floyd” at a march from the Minnesota State Capitol on May 31, 2020." />
Jury Selection began March 8, 2021for the Derek Chauvin trial. Hamline offices and departments are creating spaces, events and plans to ensure safety and support for the Hamline community during this time.
Hamline Public Safety (HPS), Dean of Students and other offices across Hamline have been working together to discuss plans for how best to navigate this time. They are looking at things with a three-pronged approach focused on education, communication and safety.
“Everything from communication to educating to locking down, so we are looking at a whole gamut of potential,” said Melinda Heikkinen, director of Public Safety.
Some of the events include a meeting educating the community about what a murder trial is about, how it works and what both the defense and prosecution will be doing. They are also working toward creating spaces for students experiencing anxiety or potential trauma, whether it be virtually, in person or both.
Heikkinen has also been working with institutions in the area so if anything does occur they can keep each other in the loop.
Most of the plans are not yet announced as details are still being finalized, but the Hamline community can expect to hear about them over the next few weeks. Sources like Inside Hamline or emails may be a way of announcing these events.
“I don’t really think there is a desire to do the programming prior to actually being in it, and I know there is angst in even just getting there,” said Dean of Students Patti Kersten.
The Rev. Nancy Victorin-Vangerud, chaplain and director of the Wesley Center, has also been in communication about possible ways of support for the Hamline community.
“My interest is in how we can all be grounded in our spiritual rootedness to be a positive force for change in our community, and throughout the trial and aftermath, no matter what occurs,” Victorin-Vangerud said.
Academic departments such as Criminal Justice, Forensic Science and Legal Studies are planning on incorporating the trial into their classroom material and discussions. Two examples include David Schultz’s Criminal Law and Practice, which covers the statutory basis for charges, and Maria Kamenska’s Diversity Issues in Criminal Justice, which will look at the case and the use of force.
“We are very invested in discussing the case in our classes,” said Shelly Schaefer, associate professor and chair of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. “In fact, a former member of the [Minneapolis Police Department] is teaching our intro class and she was recently featured in a documentary showcasing the problematic culture of MPD.”
For any emergency precautions that may need to be taken, Public Safety will be using the Hamline Alert system. This allows Public Safety to send a message that students, faculty and staff will receive within about a minute. Heikkinen reminds everyone to set up and update their account.
“It is easier to back off our preparations than it is to get them in place rapidly. So we want to be prepared for the absolute worst. And that could be a complete lockdown of the campus, it could be an evacuation of the campus,” Heikkinen said. “Based on what I see at this point, I don’t anticipate an evacuation of the campus, but we could potentially have to lock it down if things created danger for students, faculty and staff to move around. But yes, we are definitely planning for the worst in hopes that we never actually put any of those things into play.”
HPS is looking more toward the end of the trial when a verdict is announced, though they are prepared with safety and communication measures throughout the entirety of the trial process. As of 7:08 p.m. on March 5, the jury selection was still scheduled to begin March 8.
One junior said whether they protest depends on how things are looking when the time comes.
“The Minnesota state senate introduced a bill that would bar any organizations from paying bail of any felony set at 2000$ or higher,” wrote junior Eyob Neda. “The bill hasn’t been passed yet as far as I know, but it goes to show how far the problem really goes if people can’t exercise their right to protest with things like this standing in their way.”
As for COVID-19, Heikkinen and Kersten ask for masks and social distancing as much as possible and to take care of one another.
“The other thing I would add is taking care of each other,” Kersten said. “It is probably safer going with someone else than by yourself. It is a good idea to let people know where you are and when you are going to be back and if not, how you should be able to check-in.”
To create or update your Hamline Alert account: https://hamlineuniversity.bbcportal.com/