The Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, which represents faculty and professional staff at the city’s campuses, issued a unanimously approved statement calling for the investigation of the use of excessive force by police forces in the brutal arrest of peacefully protesting students at the September 17th protest against Visiting Professor David Petraeus. A video (Gawker, RT) of the police attacks shows an officer repeatedly punching a subdued student in the kidneys. They also call for the CUNY Administration and Board of Trustees to condemn police brutality against students, which it has not yet done.
So far, official CUNY responses have been to support the right of Petraeus to remain on the campus. Interim Chancellor Bill Kelly released a statement, four days after the brutal arrests of students, which reads: “Foreclosing the right of a faculty member to teach and the opportunity of students to learn is antithetical to that tradition, corrosive of the values at the heart of the academic enterprise. We defend free speech and we reject the disruption of the free exchange of ideas.”
Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science at the Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, mentioned the hypocrisy of defending Petraeus’s appointment as an issue of free speech while ignoring the brutal police suppression of student dissent. Robin wrote:
The delicate flowers of academic freedom at CUNY wilt before the jeers and jibes of a few students but warm to the blazing sun of the state. A four-star general who led two brutal counterinsurgency campaigns in Eurasia, a former head of the CIA whose hazing rituals at West Point alone probably outstrip anything the NYPD did to these students, requires the fulsome support of chancellors, senates, and deans. But six students of color beaten by cops, locked up in prison for a day, and now facing a full array of charges from the state, deserve nothing but the cold silence of their university. So much tender solicitude for a man so wealthy and powerful that he can afford to teach two courses at CUNY for a dollar; so little for these students, whose education is the university’s true and only charge.
Glenn Peterson (Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Baruch College), writing on the Professional Staff Congress blog, demonstrates in great detail how Petraeus’s presence is part of an ongoing process to turn CUNY into a military resource. In particular, through the reinstatement of ROTC on campus for the first time since 1972. Peterson cautions that the implications of hiring Petraeus and reinstating ROTC at CUNY are enormous and advises that “all of us at CUNY need to stop and reflect on where this seeming alliance between the military and CUNY is headed, before we move any further on this path that someone else has set us on.”
Other professors at CUNY have written about the increasingly militarized university. An adjunct faculty of Macaulay Honors College informally attended a private talk by Petraeus. She writes that she was noticed, marked as an outsider on her own campus, and surveilled by plain-clothes security because of her presence at her own university. In another post, by a Macaulay Fellow, Karen Gregory writes,
when the majority of students understand that they literally cannot access a faculty member, because he is surrounded by a retinue of bodyguards and policemen, what lessons are sent? When they realize that protesting is met by a powerful security apparatus, how do we maintain the fiction that this hire is inspiring and encouraging productive debate? For them, a security apparatus that does truly warn them not to “get too close” is marking their intellectual development. While I know that many are taking up the phrase “militarization” to understand Petraeus’ presence, for me it’s this boundary marking, these unintended lessons, that worry me the most.
The striking students of Mexico’s National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) have passed a resolution in support of CUNY students arrested for protesting Petraeus’s appointment. Currently, these students are mobilizing in defense of public education in Mexico City as part of a larger national strike of labor. They have been brutally attacked by riot police and have called for a strike of unlimited duration. They write: “we send you a warm salute of internationalist solidarity. We demand that all the charges against you be dropped immediately.” CUNY sincerely returns this salute – su lucha también nos inspira!
Rally in support of students’ right to protest TODAY Monday, September 23, at 2:30 pm, at Macaulay Honors College, 35 W. 67th Street (between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue). Come and join us!
– CUNY Solidarity