By Qendresa Efendija
Students protested in front of Macaulay Honors College to prevent military control of the City University of New York this past Monday, Sept. 16
The protesters were barricaded by fences and monitored by policemen as they waited for David Petraeus’s arrival, the four star general and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Among those protesters were members from the CUNY internationalists club, students without borders from Queens College and anti-war activists, along 35W 67 St., with signs that read “David Death Squad Petraeus.”
The police took extra security and safety precautions by not allowing anyone near the entrance due to last Monday’s occurrence when students harassed Petraeous walking down the street. Petraeus, scheduled to teach his class at 3 p.m., arrived 40 minutes earlier in a black car that dropped him off exactly at the entrance.
Petraeus teaches his seminar style class entitled, “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?” every Monday. His online course description reads “students will examine in depth and then synthesize the history and trends in diverse public policy,” but the protesters outside the walls of Macaulay Honors College read Petraeus as a war criminal inside CUNY to increase military influence.
A request to attend one of the seminars to gain a better understanding on Petraeus’s teaching and influence as an educator was denied by Grace Rapkin, Director of Marketing and Communications at Macaulay college, who marked down which media stations were covering the protest.
Students and professors expressed their first amendment rights chanting, “1,2,3,4, Defeat U.S. imperialist War, 5,6,7,8, Patraeus out we can’t wait!” The hate streaming from the demonstrators was targeted toward the military and its interference with the city schools’ education system.
Sandor John, professor and activist, from Hunter College said, “CUNY is not a hunting ground for military officers. It is a place to learn and express students’ ideas.”
John, with a family history in the military, opposes all military programs such as the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) that was also ousted in 1971 through protest. The military however still targets CUNY schools as recruit centers. John believes that appointing Petraeus to teach was a political decision and not an academic one.
In the midst of the protest was CUNY student, Farhaan Fhoss, chair of the Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee at Queens College (RCC). He missed class that day to be a part of the protest. Fhoss’s job as the chair member is too build ties with other CUNY committees. While Fhoss explained how similar the committee gathers students together to protest against Petraeus, the crowd broke out into a chant of “What is revolution for? Class, struggle, people’s war.”
Different speakers such as William Crain from City College of New York, with a peace sign button attached to his blazer, and John Arena from College of Staten Island took turns saluting everyone that came out to support the students and faculty of CUNY. They then continued reciting with the crowd, “General Petraeus you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!”
This lighter campaign accompanied by a mixture of students and professors encouraged everyone to spread the word for Tues. Sept. 17th’s fundraiser called for by the Ad Hoc committee against the institutionalization of CUNY. The protesters handed out flyers for this event to by-standers, who would stop and stare at the commotion. The flyer read and called out to, “CUNY students, faculty and staff; city workers, teachers and other unionists; immigrant rights activists and opponents of racist repression and imperialist war should all come out together to protest the billionaire/war criminal gala.”
These students felt that this demonstration was necessary in order to protect freethinking in CUNY schools without the government’s involvement, learning in a city school where there is already heavy government involvement.