CalArts' Relationship with Santa Clarita Sheriff's Department

Dear CalArtians,

There have been many inquiries regarding CalArts’ relationship with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  The incident on Friday between sheriff deputies and Black youths in Santa Clarita is a reminder of ongoing issues that continue to plague the Sheriff’s Department locally and across the county.  

While CalArts has never had formal relationships with the LA County Sheriff, the security for two annual events – our Halloween party and graduation – has traditionally been arranged with off-duty Sheriff’s Department deputies.

Moving forward, we will seek other options for these legally required security services.

In addition, all law enforcement officials who arrive on campus under non-emergency circumstances must provide their names, contact information, and purpose for visiting before being allowed on campus. 

We are making these changes because of the odious, troubling and absolutely inappropriate behavior by Sheriff’s Department personnel during recent protests and again last week. I’ve made our position clear to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

It reinforces the dissent we registered with the Department in June, when law enforcement and National Guard troops swarmed Santa Clarita during a protest in town. Many CalArtians led and were part of that anti-racism, anti-violence demonstration – and CalArts declared our campus a safe space from which protestors could stage. We notified the Sheriff’s Department substation and area command center that they, along with any other law enforcement or military personnel, would not be welcome that day at CalArts.

Because we have just one law enforcement agency – the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station  – to call when we’re in need, we have tried to better understand how to work with them to ensure we get support when we need it. We want to make sure that we have ample resources when we call for help.

But we have a moral obligation to live our principles, especially for those with whom we are in direct contact. These urgent conversations are taking shape in colleges and universities across the country. In Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota has halted much of its collaboration with city police after the killing of George Floyd. Back east, in Worcester, Mass., Clark University limited a similar relationship after a confrontation between police and demonstrators.

I expect other schools, colleges, and universities will take similar decisions in their respective communities, too, as we enter the fall semester.

When our conscience calls us to action, we have a duty to stand up. Together we will continue to compel local officials to rise with us in shielding and supporting free expression, free assembly, and the fight against racism and police brutality.

We cannot, and will not, relent in these important steps toward justice.


Ravi Rajan
President, CalArts