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Campus spies. Pepper spray. SWAT teams. Twitter trackers. Biometrics. Student security consultants. Professors of homeland security studies. Welcome to Repress U, class of 2012.
Since 9/11, the homeland security state has come to campus just as it has come to America’s towns and cities, its places of work and its houses of worship, its public space and its cyberspace. But the age of (in)security had announced its arrival on campus with considerably less fanfare than elsewhere—until, that is, the “less lethal” weapons were unleashed in the fall of 2011.
Today, from the City University of New York to the University of California, students increasingly find themselves on the frontlines, not of a war on terror, but of a war on “radicalism” and “extremism.” Just about everyone from college administrators and educators to law enforcement personnel and corporate executives seems to have enlisted in this war effort. Increasingly, American students are in their sights.
In 2008, I laid out seven steps the Bush administration had taken to create a homeland security campus. Four years and a president later, Repress U has come a long way. In the Obama years, it has taken seven more steps to make the university safe for plutocracy. Here is a step-by-step guide to how they did it.
1. Target Occupy
Had there been no UC Davis, no Lt. John Pike, no chemical weapons wielded against peacefully protesting students and no cameras to broadcast it all, Americans might never have known just how far the homeland security campus has come in its mission to police its students. In the old days, you might have called in the National Guard. Nowadays, all you need is an FBI-trained, federally funded, and “less lethally” armed campus police department.
The mass pepper-spraying of students at UC Davis was only the most public manifestation of a long-running campus trend in which, for officers of the peace, the pacification of student protest has become part of the job description. The weapons of choice have sometimes been blunt instruments, such as the extendable batons used to bludgeon the student body at Berkeley,Baruch and the University of Puerto Rico. At other times, tactical officers have turned to “less-lethal” munitions, like the CS gas, beanbag rounds and pepper pellets fired into crowds at Occupy protests across the University of California system this past winter.