Student Protest Stops CIA at NYU

A planned CIA recruiting event at New York University (NYU) was canceled after the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) called a protest demanding the CIA abandon its recruiting program at NYU. Twenty hours before the recruiting event was scheduled to begin, its organizers sent an e-mail to all those who had registered, headlined, "The CIA Speaker Event scheduled for Thursday, March 31 @6PM has been CANCELED due to the possibility of a protest by the Campus Antiwar Network."

The event – which was scheduled to include speakers from the CIA, a dinner, and a raffle for prizes such as an iPod Shuffle – was organized by students in an NYU marketing class whose classwork for the semester is to market the CIA to their peers at NYU. They will be graded on their efforts; the CIA, which provided them a $2,500 budget for their project, retains ownership of the marketing campaign they create. The CIA hired the company EdVenture Partners to broker this arrangement.

This alliance between the university and the CIA to market CIA employment on campus is taking place at only two universities this semester: NYU and the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA). Students at both schools have rallied in protest against the program.

"We believe they’re testing the waters to see how brazenly they can recruit on campuses without encountering student opposition, before spreading programs like this to colleges across the country," said Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, a senior at NYU and member of the Campus Antiwar Network. "Forcing them to cancel their big speaking event is a huge victory. It showed them they can’t market an agency that supports torture and murder around the world without a fight."

After the event was canceled, about 20 students rallied in celebration outside the building where it was scheduled to have been held, passing out fact sheets about the CIA’s history of assassination attempts and support for brutal dictatorships. Ten students went to challenge the event’s organizers to a public debate on campus about the CIA – an offer that was declined.

"Their marketing campaign says they want to ‘dispel the myths’ about the CIA," said David Florey, a senior at NYU and member of the Campus Antiwar Network. "But they refused our offer to debate. They can’t dispel the reality of the CIA’s own practices. It’s not a myth that the CIA organized the program in Afghanistan that trained Osama bin Laden."

A National Movement

NYU’s protest comes in the context of a counter-recruitment movement that has swept colleges and high schools across the country. Students at schools ranging from Seattle Central Community College and San Francisco State University on the West Coast, to City College New York and and Southern Connecticut State University on the East Coast, have chased military recruiters off their campus this school year.

Expensive private colleges like NYU don’t get the same kinds of military recruiters. The only recruiters NYU has seen this year came from the Judge Advocate General (the legal arm of the military), which faced protest from NYU students opposed to the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the prosecution of war resisters. But students at NYU see their CIA Off Campus campaign as a contribution to the national counter-recruitment movement.

"We know that because of the general affluence of the students at NYU, direct military recruitment will never be as fruitful as the government would hope, but in the past few months, we’ve seen a significant increase in the presence of other forms of recruitment for militaristic operations," said Sam Pipp, a sophomore at NYU and member of the Campus Antiwar Network. "This CIA recruitment in the guise of a class represents a campaign of sorts on the part of the government to pull as many as they can into the military machine."

"We’re here as part of a growing counter-recruitment movement that has the potential to stop Bush’s ability to carry out his agenda of war and terror," said Leia Petty, a member of the Campus Antiwar Network, at the protest. "We’re here to say that torture and terror are not career opportunities, and we don’t intend to back down until the CIA drops all efforts to recruit at NYU."

Just the Beginning

Two days before NYU’s protest, students at UTPA had protested the CIA recruiting event at their campus, where the CIA is explicitly marketing itself as an employer of choice for Latinos. "I think the students in the marketing class are naive to think they’re offering any opportunity to Hispanics," said Samantha Garcia, president of Students for Peace and Justice and the University Socialist Forum at UTPA, two groups that protested the CIA. Garcia noted the CIA’s history of involvement in Latin America, such as its involvement in the overthrow of Chile’s left-wing leader Salvador Allende and its support of Nicaragua’s Contras.

At both schools, students plan to keep fighting the CIA presence and opposing the U.S. occupation in Iraq, which they see as intimately connected. "Bush says we’re bringing democracy to Iraq," Wrigley-Field said. "But the history of the CIA shows the U.S. is the last country that can bring democracy anywhere."