The second in a series of bipartisan Congressional panel discussions on racial justice and police reform was held May 6 - one of the first campus events to have an in-person component since the start of the pandemic. 

President Chris Gibson ’86, Ph.D. moderated U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19) and U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY-24), who discussed the two major legislative proposals for policing reform. Students from three political science classes gathered at Serra Manor, with others joining in virtually.

The panelists took a close look at two major legislative proposals addressing reform presently being considered by the Congress: one authored by U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a progressive Democrat from of California, and another by Sen. Tom Scott, a conservative Republican from South Carolina.

Jennifer Uzhca ’23 called the panel “a wonderful opportunity.”

“We are surrounded with the ability to get second-by-second updates, and with that comes the ability to manipulate narratives,” she said. “While I still stand firmly on my own progressive views, the discussion panel was an opportunity to listen to those in power speak without the filters of the media altering their words or message. You learn so much about a person and their views when you take the time to listen and hear what their saying.” 

Amir Taylor ’22 welcomed the opportunity to engage in dialogue directly with elected representatives.

“Their being here showed us that the democratic process is important – we don’t live in a bubble,” said Taylor. “It was great to see two members of Congress who are committed to bipartisanship when so many are not, trying to make the world a better place. We also enjoyed the opportunity to directly ask them questions – and follow-up questions.”

He said Rep. Delgado’s presence as an African American was especially important given the racial divides in the country today.

“There is a lot of representation of white identity, but we need to hear from people of color as well.”  

To prepare for the event, the student attendees read background material on a police reform proposal authored by the local grassroots organization All of US, entitled "13 Demands," as well as a New York Times article on a Black police officer from Minneapolis.

“The articles gave the students a sense of the complexity and acute difficulty of this issue,” said Gibson. 

Delgado told his audience that “humility has to drive this conversation” and that any conversation about police reform must address existing systemic racism.

Katko said he “is confident that we will get to some legislation on this issue,” but has concerns about the far left-far right stratification of the country.