Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
That’s more than four times the number of officers in the entire Cleveland Police Department.
CLEVELAND—With the official kickoff of the Republican National Convention on Monday, the police presence is noticeable everywhere in Cleveland. Hundreds of officers are standing guard near the Quicken Loans Arena, the downtown convention center where conservative politicians, dignitaries, and staffers are assembling. Many hundreds more can be seen elsewhere throughout the city.
More than 5,000 police officers are working in Cleveland this week, a figure that is more than four times the number of officers in the Cleveland Police Department. With thousands of officers in town from divisions around the state and the nation, and with hotel space at a premium, the city has turned to its college campuses to house police—to the chagrin of some faculty, staff, and students temporarily displaced as a result.
Case Western Reserve University is putting up approximately 1,700 police officers and 200 members of the Ohio National Guard this week, for example. The university is providing alternative arrangements for students living in dorms where police will be housed. The campus is not closed, but operations are significantly reduced. While classes are not officially canceled, faculty fear that students enrolled in the summer session will lose a week of instruction anyway. The university’s first communication that it was housing thousands of police officers was on June 24.
“Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) prides itself on being the leading research university in Northeast Ohio,” writes an anonymous professor in an essay for Belt.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that not only would CWRU be housing approximately 1,700 riot police in student dormitories during the Republican National Convention, that not only would those police be permitted to store their weapons in student dormitories, and that not only would widespread student opposition to this decision be placated with two milquetoast Q&A sessions—“opportunities to learn,” President Barbara Snyder called them—but that my colleagues and I, with only one week’s notice, would be expected to cancel a week of summer classes in order to accommodate the quartering of the paramilitary force descending on Cleveland to police the city during the convention.
The professor’s language summons to mind visions of colonists being forced to house British soldiers before the American Revolution. That is perhaps not so far from the truth, though the city is paying Cleveland-area universities for their trouble (through funds provided by a U.S. Department of Justice grant). The astounding police presence on the ground in Cleveland—witnessed in long marching columns or as roving packs on bicycles—called for hundreds and hundreds of beds, a commodity in short supply thanks to the convention and its 50,000 guests.
In a July 16 email to faculty and staff (which was shared with CityLab by a professor who does not wish to be named), Case Western president Snyder addressed faculty complains about the situation. She apologized to students for not fully considering how the university’s agreement with the city would affect university members, especially students. Nevertheless, Snyder said that the college had a moral duty to accommodate the city’s request.
“We are a part of this community, and felt a civic obligation to respond when asked,” Snyder wrote. “In addition, Cleveland officers have assisted our campus police on multiple occasions—including some of the most challenging circumstances we have encountered.” (Snyder may be referring to a 2003 shooting, in which a gunman killed a person and fired on Cleveland police inside the Frank Gehry-designed business school.)
Cleveland State University is hosting about 500 police officers this week, along with about 100 other personnel, including GOP delegates and interns. Very few students live on campus during the summer session, according to a university spokesman, so the college was able to accommodate all its guests without displacing any students. The university is opening its facilities to guests, expanding hours at the recreation center, library, and dining hall.
As with Case Western, classes at Cleveland State University are not canceled, technically, but they won’t be taking place on campus. The college has asked professors to hold classes online or provide assignments in lieu of instruction.
Case Western would not disclose how much the city is paying the university to house police this week. Cleveland State did not immediately respond to a request for this information. But for displaced faculty and staff, there may not be a figure high enough.
“Can we actually presume that asking faculty to reboot one eighth of their entire class, during week seven of an eight-week term and with less than one week of notice, will lead to a positive learning experience for our students?” reads the anonymous essay at Belt. “I will continue to call this decision what it is: CWRU is effectively canceling its classes in order to host 1,700 riot police for the RNC. I fail to see the wisdom in rebranding our mistakes in order to imply otherwise.”