On the 24th of June, Memorial University’s Sociology Department announced they were swapping their Major of Police Studies to Criminology from this upcoming September. The day following the announcement, ex-police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the murder of George Floyd.
Although these appear to be two distinct events, upon closer inspection, it is safe to say the driving force behind both of these developments is more interlinked than one might expect.
George Floyd was a Black man accused of passing a forfeit 20 dollar bill, and in turn, Derek Chauvin arrested Floyd and pressed his knee against his neck for more than nine minutes. This attack led to Floyd’s death and caused public outrage and disgust.
The BLM Movement fights against systemic racism against Black people and often focuses on victims of police brutality.
Although this incident occurred in the United States, the act of hate against Floyd inspired a global movement that left many questioning the validity of their own justice system.
Consequently, this shift in social perspective also translated over to Canadian borders, including here in Newfoundland and Labrador, evidenced by Memorial University’s subtle development within their Sociology Department.
“The greatest change adopted in 2021 is to the major/degree name itself,” MUN’s Department of Sociology wrote in an email last Friday.
In this sense, the change appears to be less of a modification to the curriculum itself and more of a socially acceptable rebranding of the major.
Students who are already midway through their degree have the option to either graduate with a major in Police Studies or switch over to a major in Criminology. Furthermore, the opportunity to enroll in an Honours of Criminology has also been incorporated.
Despite the adjustments the public is beginning to see due to the BLM, the movement is far from over in its fight against racial inequality. For one, a white nationalist hate group has been linked to the vandalism of a George Floyd memorial in New York a day before Chauvin’s hearing. Further, the three other police officers present during Floyd’s arrest are scheduled to stand trial this upcoming August, all of them pleading not guilty.