Daily Egyptian

Column: No School of Homeland Security

By Sam Beard

Tucked away in Chancellor Montemagno’s plan to restructure our university are some details that are so troubling, so utterly dangerous, that they warrant a column of their own.

Specifically, I am talking about the chancellor’s expressed desire to create a School of Homeland Security with a police academy — two things that hold absolutely no place on a college campus, a place whose self-stated task is to make the world better.

As such, universities must serve as tools for resisting the status quo, not weapons to reinforce it.

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They are the places where some of the brightest academic minds mingle with one another to work through the pressing issues of today, so we can have a tomorrow that is worth living.

But the creation of a School of Homeland Security attacks these ideals.

It formalizes SIU’s complacency with and approval of some of the most oppressive and fundamentally anti-freedom producing institutions in the history mankind.

For example, ICE, the agency tasked with deporting undocumented immigrants by ripping them away from families and economic opportunities is housed in the Department of Homeland Security.

What would the creation of such a school say to DACA students and those who live with the everyday fear that the government will snatch-up and deport one of their loved ones?

Historically speaking, universities have served as extremely effective and strategic hot-beds for dissent against an overreaching federal government.

Resistance against colossal injustices like the Vietnam War and segregation were successfully waged on college campuses across the United States, including right here at SIU.

But we are entering a new era of political repression, a new era of government crackdowns on everything it views as threatening to its status and the supreme ruler of the free world.

The state is not some sort of neutral dispenser of justice, we must shed any illusion that it is. As a result, it intentionally attacks social movements that challenge its core values.

Even just last year on inauguration day, while I was leading a student walkout against the Trump administration and everything it stands for, the police were waging war against anti-Trump/anti-capitalist protestors in the nation’s capital.

Demonstrators were fired upon with concussion grenades and pepper spray while being beaten and indiscriminately mass-arrested.

Six of those arrested were from Carbondale, although, as of last week the charges have been dropped on most of them.

Why were they arrested?

Because they had the audacity to oppose the federal government and its unbridled support for all of the “isms” that are destroying our futures—sexism, racism, imperialism, nationalism and capitalism.

While this most recent wave of political repression in America is nothing new, it has shown once and for all what the government actually cares about. That is, maintaining control and dominance over the population and upholding the social order.

Things like the NSA, CIA, The Department of Homeland Security and the police exist exclusively to serve this end.

That is why the police choose to let white-supremacists terrorize places like Charlottesville, where we lost a brave comrade in the battle against anti-black racism.

That is why the cops come crashing down against the boldest of Black Lives Matter protests and arrest people in the streets, from St. Louis to Washington DC.

That is why there are 59 people still facing an upwards of 60 years in prison for demonstrating against the Trump administration last year on Jan. 20.

If SIU is to have any role in this conversation, it should be to challenge contemporary policing as a whole and the way it functions as an anti-black, anti-poor and anti-immigrant apparatus of social control.

The American “justice” system operates within the mode of retributive justice (seeking justice through punishment).

Additionally, nearly every step in the American “justice” system has been statistically proven to be racist, if not in its motives than in its outcomes.

As a result, this system creates a racialized under-caste of Americans that have been branded as criminal by the police and judiciary.

Hundreds of thousands of people of color are locked in cages for decades due to non-violent drug offenses.

Black men are gunned down in the streets with absolutely zero accountability for the cops who participate in what some scholars refer to as “modern-day lynchings.”

It is the role of the university, the institutional brain of our country’s future leaders, to challenge and overcome these injustices.

It is our job to lay-out the foundation for what we need as a nation to radically divert from this clear path towards fascism, a process the police make possible, wittingly or not.

Instead of a cop academy, we should open a Department of Restorative and Transformative Justice, whose aim is to develop a community’s capacity to correct wrongdoings not through punishment, but by repairing and mending the situation and transforming the material conditions into that which nourishes and cares for our most vulnerable.   

We would know more about the specifics of the process of implementing a police academy but the chancellor’s office has withheld that information. In October, as a member of the SIU Board of Trustees, I asked the chancellor’s office if I could attend an administrative meeting about the formation of the police academy but was wrongfully denied access. Instead, I was promised a briefing on the meeting. On three separate occasions I have asked the chancellor’s office to provide said briefing and have never received it.

Student Trustee Sam Beard can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (618) 453-8418. His office is located in the Registered Student Organization Suite on the third floor of the Student Center and his office hours will be posted next week.

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