Rutgers Faculty condemns NYPD surveillance of Muslim students

In a resolution passed on Friday, February 24, the Executive Council of the Rutgers Council of AAUP Chapters (American Association of University Professors) condemned recent reports of NYPD surveillance of Muslim students:

News reports that the New York Police Department, with the assistance of the CIA, has put university campuses and indeed
entire communities across the Northeast under surveillance have shocked faculty, students, and citizens. The CIA is not
permitted to carry out such activities in the U.S., yet the NYPD “demographics unit” spied on hundreds of mosques, Islamic
bookstores and Muslim campus organizations. Rutgers is one among several universities (such as Columbia, CUNY, Yale,
etc.) where students and faculty were monitored and spied upon. In fact, undercover NYPD officers had a “safe house” in an
off-campus apartment near the New Brunswick campus which was discovered in 2009 after the building superintendent called 911, thinking it was a terrorist cell.

We, the Rutgers AAUP-AFT (American Association of University Professors – American Federation of Teachers) strongly
oppose these activities. No faculty member or student should be subject to violations of their privacy by governmental
agencies based on their religion, race, or ethnicity. Such scrutiny of our faculty and students violates their academic freedom in the classroom and creates a chilling effect on free inquiry. Infiltration of student groups violates their right to gather and assemble without state interference. These blatant violations of civil liberties must be stopped immediately. They are also contrary to everything the AAUP has been fighting for during its entire existence (see leading AAUP member Ellen Schrecker’s work on McCarthyism and its impact on the academy).

These modern-day witch hunts remind us of a dark period in American history. During the Cold War the “Communist menace” was used as the excuse to routinely carry out surveillance on political and civil rights organizations. For instance, individuals such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were infiltrated and put under surveillance. We should learn the lessons of history and not condone such practices today. Such tactics not only violate civil liberties they also have devastating personal consequences for those viewed as “suspicious” simply because of their race, religion, or ethnicity.

Universities must speak very forcefully against such practices. The President of Yale University, Richard C. Levin has already done so. He wrote:

“I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States.”

So far Rutgers has not spoken out about the harm that has been done to our academic community, nor has Rutgers defended those of us who have been injured by the police surveillance.

We strongly urge President McCormick and the Rutgers administration to:

1. State in no uncertain terms our strong commitment to protecting the academic and civil rights of students and faculty
and to affirm the positive role of various Muslim and Arab student groups on our campus, as Yale University has already
done. (“The Yale Muslim Students Association has been an important source of support for Yale students during a period
when Muslims and Islam itself have too often been the target of thoughtless stereotyping, misplaced fear, and bigotry.”)

2. To demand and enforce an immediate end to such surveillance activity on Rutgers campuses.

3. To call for an independent investigation of the activities of the NYPD’s “demographics unit.”

The absence of a strong and timely response from Rutgers to this outrageous behavior by the NYPD and the CIA leaves us
vulnerable to other such attacks on the basic fabric of the University. We urge President McCormick to act forcefully and
expeditiously.

For a PDF of the resolution, visit http://www.rutgersaaup.org/resolutions/Resolution-NYPD-Surveillance-2-24-12.pdf

Advertisements