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Title of IUPUI criminal justice course generates some controversy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A criminal justice course at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is making national headlines.

The full course title is “Defund the Police? Race, Policing, and Criminal Justice Reform.”

It’s going viral online thanks to those who have highlighted those first three words and erased the rest of the title.

Still, some with a background in law enforcement tells News 8 in this highly charged environment, it might be time to change the name completely.

This semester’s course is getting plenty of buzz for the title, not so much the subject matter which is a history of policing in America up to the present day.

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But most writing about the course are deleting the last two thirds and a very important question mark leaving just “Defund the Police.”

“Iit’s unfortunate that folks jumped to conclusion without actually understanding what the nature of the discussion would be,” said Thomas Stucky, the man behind the course. He’s the executive associate dean at the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.

While this exact topic and title are firsts, it’s part of a regular offering of current event topics to students.

“We’re talking about some of the most important issues in criminal justice so I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t open these questions for students to examine,” Stucky said.

Indiana University Police is the law enforcement agency that covers IUPUI. Chief Doug Johnson said the class is valuable, timely and relevant.

“Higher education has a moral obligation to ask these sorts of questions. Just because a topic is controversial or perceived to be controversial doesn’t mean these questions don’t need to be asked,” Johnson said.

Still, this environment and this year seem a little different.

“It’s a little unsettling,” said Doug Kouns, founder and chief executive officer of Veracity IIR in Carmel. He spent more than 20 years on the job with FBI.

“The phrase ‘Defund the Police’ really is an unfortunate label for what’s really meant,” Kouns said.

Kouns said he certainly supports the subject matter, but would also like to see a different title if the class is offered again.

“I think appearances matter. A lot of people don’t get past the headline,” Kouns said. “I think it would be better to come up with a different phrase or slogan for what’s actually meant.”

But Stucky and Johnson disagree.

“If I call it “21st Century Policing Practices,” do you think that resonates with people? I don’t know I’m going to get too many students taking that class,” Stucky said. “These are students, many of them are going to go into policing or they’re going to work in a criminal justice system so if they don’t understand what it is they’re walking into, then we’re doing them a disservice.”

“The university or the professor that’s leading the class shouldn’t change the name because it’s an unpopular name,” added Johnson.

There are 43 students are in the class right now. Stucky said is a very good amount of interest. He hopes to offer it again but there are no immediate plans to do so. He said that’s mostly a result of his limited schedule being in the administration and not just a professor.

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