PoliceFreeCampus: A Digital Ethnography of Black Campus-community Resistance, New Media Organizing, and Abolitionist Praxis for a Police-free Future
Charles H. F. Davis

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Michigan

Primary Discipline

The killing of Black people and the occupation of Black neighborhoods by police in the United States is not a phenomenon unique to municipal police departments. In fact, 771 colleges and universities spend an average of $2.7 million annually to employ and arm sworn officers in campus police departments, at least two of which have been responsible for the killing of unarmed Black people during off-campus patrols in recent years. More routinely, however, campus policing employs mechanisms of surveillance, criminalization, and carceral punishment to enforce various social, symbolic, and spatial boundaries between White-serving postsecondary institutions and the Black communities within which they are located. Within the framing context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, our digital ethnography broadly explores the ways such postsecondary boundary enforcement renders Black people, on-campus and beyond, vulnerable to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence. More specifically, our study seeks to understand and document the digitally-mediated processes by which Black campus actors and community stakeholders are collectively resisting the racial project of policing and challenging postsecondary institutions to adopt abolitionist visions of public safety and community care. Altogether our study will offer new insights regarding the contemporary relationship between campus and community-based movement work as well as the tactical repertoires employed to effectively organize across policing boundaries. Furthermore, our study will provide a compelling case for effectively reimagining possibilities for institutional and community safety devoid of police.
About Charles H. F. Davis
Charles H.F. Davis III is third-generation educator committed to the lives, love, laughter, and liberation of everyday Black people. Dr. Davis is an Assistant Professor in the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education where his research and teaching broadly focus on issues of race, racism, and resistance in education and its social contexts. He is especially interested in how Black campus-community organizers use alternative and activist new media to cultivate movement legitimacy, grow solidarity, build political power, and achieve socio-institutional change. His book Student Activism, Politics, and Campus Climate in Higher Education was published by Routledge in 2019. Dr. Davis’ scholarship has been offered as expert testimony before the California State Assembly, presented before federal legislators and policymakers, and cited in amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court of the United States. He received his Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Arizona and holds a master’s degree from the Penn Graduate School of Education as well as an M.A. in Communications and B.A. in English from Florida State University. Prior to joining the Michigan faculty, Dr. Davis served as a research administrator and non-tenure-track professor at the University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania. He is founder and director of the Scholars for Black Lives Collective and considers Black Lives Matter–Los Angeles and the Dream Defenders his political homes.

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