The headline in the Washington Post proclaims “FBI Taps Campus Police in Anti-Terror Operations.” My first reaction was amusement, caused by thinking about the Dartmouth campus police of my day, which had the misfortune of being located under the Dartmouth Forensic Union where Rocket Man and I hung out. My second reaction was relief — one would hope that, with terrorists having entered the country on student visas, the FBI would be communicating with campus police. But the Post reports that the reaction of some faculty leaders, student groups, and Muslim activists is that this represents a threat to academic freedom. They argue that “U.S. colleges and universities are unique places devoted to the exchange of ideas and even the hint of surveillance by government authorities taints that environment.” This claim might have more force if our colleges and universities were consistently devoted to the free exchange of ideas, rather than the promotion of a politically correct liberal agenda. These same “faculty leaders” are probably the ones who cause or condone the exclusion from campus of critics of Islamic fundamentalism, such as Daniel Pipes.
In any case, the notion that FBI communication with the campus police would “taint” even an idealized college environment is implausble. If one makes it to the end of this over-heated article, one will finally encounter some common sense. Thus, Barbara O’Connor, chief of police at U. Mass (any relation to our own beloved Proctor O’Connor, Rocket Man?), says “I think we have a responsibility as a major university to contribute to the safety of the region, despite the political pressure that’s been brought to bear. I understand people’s concerns about civil liberties, but this is part of making sure people aren’t harming citizens.” And Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education, adds “Much of the concern expressed at the moment is speculative and anticipatory. It’s ascribing sinister motives to the FBI before anything remotely akin to that has been proven.”
The Post story is also interesting for its invocation of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program of the 1960s, which monitored the campus radicalism of that era. As a student activist of that time, I would have to question any suggestion that the FBI was able to chill or significantly affect the course of student activism. And while I don’t condone every tactic the FBI might have used, I think it was altogether appropriate that the FBI was keeping track of campus radicalism, given my first-hand knowledge of what many radicals of that time had in mind for America.
UPDATE by Hindrocket: It would be sweet to think that she is our O’Connor’s daughter, Deacon, but I doubt it. It’s probably hard for our readers to grasp how far we both have come in thinking that it is entirely appropriate and reasonable that the FBI should keep an eye on campuses to keep us safe from enemies of our country. I will say that academic freedom has little to fear from the FBI, and much to free from Islamofascists and their PC allies.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell