Opinion | Feb. 24 9:50 pm EST

Two responses to discrimination

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (Photo by Roland Pugh)

In his book What Are Intellectuals Good For?, George Scialabba praises those who, blessed with an influential voice in society, have used that voice to “hem in everyday barbarism a little.” The NYPD has defended its surveillance of Muslim Students Associations at Columbia and other schools as routine, as nothing out of the ordinary. The everyday nature of their actions does nothing to diminish its barbarism. In moments when the liberty and security of our own are under threat from the forces that claim to protect us, our leaders must seek to protect every individual as well.

Which is why a comparison between the statements made by Barnard President Debora Spar and Columbia President Lee Bollinger to their respective student communities is so instructive. President Bollinger’s statement reads like a declaration of deniability, focusing on the specific elements of this case. President Spar’s, by contrast, stands as a clarion call against discrimination and in support of students’ liberty and security.

The timing of the two statements, of course, is the greatest indicator of the difference in intention behind them. President Spar released her message on Tuesday, one day after the news of the surveillance broke, suggesting that she hoped to reassure her students of the support of their college in an uncertain, trying time. President Bollinger released his first message to the Columbia community today, after releasing a one-paragraph public statement on Tuesday. His first response to the news that police were profiling his students and conducting surveillance on a religious group was oriented to the media. Only after significant pressure from the student body did he feel it necessary to address the people targeted by this discriminatory practice.

Further, President Bollinger’s claim that “the University and our Department of Public Safety had no prior knowledge” of these NYPD activities raises more questions than it answers when compared with President Spar’s assertion that “Barnard’s Department of Public Safety does not participate in or condone unlawful surveillance or monitoring of any kind.” Assuming that neither of these people are just outright lying, Barnard students can rest assured that their college has not and will not aid the NYPD in unjustified and discriminatory monitoring of its students. Columbia students have received no such reassurance. All we have is a denial of collusion in this particular case.

I don’t know why President Bollinger’s response to blatant discrimination and profiling has been so tepid compared to that of his counterpart from across the street, or why he has acted as though the security of his students is a secondary concern in this case. But in times like these it’s worth noting that, for more than twenty years, Columbia has had a unique partnership with the NYPD. The Institute for Not-for-Profit Management at Columbia Business School plays host to a program called the “Police Management Institute,” which has trained, among many others, the second-highest ranking officer on the force: First Deputy Commissioner Rafael Pineiro.

It would be a shame if such connections stopped our leaders from doing whatever they could to protect their students from discrimination, to hem in everyday barbarism even just a little.

Sam Klug is a senior majoring in History and is a bit of an old soul at 23. He even enjoys listening to old, soul music on a regular basis




  1. spot on • February 24, 2012 at 9:59 pm • Reply

    well said!!

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    • Dave • May 15, 2012 at 2:17 am • Reply

      Absolutely not!He’s supports a slew of gonrevment actions that violate individual rights. For example, the warrantless searches he and Bloombog call stop and frisk. For example, installing cameras everywhere to spy on us in our peaceful movements. For example, that hall monitoring deal where cops patrol apartment buildings and arrest or threaten to arrest anyone walking around without and ID. Never mind that they are tenants. What kind of Gulag is Kelly and Bloombug turning apartment buildings into?Or what about the apparently yet to be implemented x-ray device that can see through your clothes to expose whether or not you’re carrying a gun or some other weapon? Are we living in Fascist Gernamy? No. In an increasingly fascist NYC in an increasingly fascist USofA.What about Kelly’s pedistal on which the new Zero World Trade Center Tower rests? This to prevent truck bombs from taking down the building. But if trucks had not been allowed to pass through the site, there it would have been impossible to truck bomb the tower.Should I continue or is this enough evidence against Kelly?

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  2. A Veteran • February 25, 2012 at 2:11 am • Reply

    The blatant discrimination you speak of. I’m guessing that’s  having a member of law enforcement monitor, basically look at daily, the websites of a number of different organizations. Whose members are primarily Muslims, some from the Middle East attending school here in the United States on student visas and within close proximity to New York City. Now since you’re already an “old soul” at 23 you should probably realize that these groups are not he only groups being monitored. I’m sure, due in no small part to comments like yours, that The Spec has a few visitors almost daily that read posts, take names and open files on all sorts of people who are not Muslims, but would never even think that they would merit a second look by anyone for anything they said or did. Then why would someone write their name down or keep an eye on what they’ve posted online, especially a member of the NYPD? Oh, let’s see. How about the fact that 23 members of the NYPD were killed on September 11th alongside an estimated 1,900 of their fellow first responders? Or, how about the fact that almost 5,000 American service members have died trying to keep both Muslims and non-Muslims safe from extremists, insurgents, terrorists and ordinary criminals in Iraq and Afghanistan? Nope, I’m guessing because you were 12 or 13 at the time of the attacks and witnessed them that that makes you an “old soul” now, free to make judgements about the way an administrator and law enforcement officials conduct policy in a city that fell prey to the worst attack in this nation’s history. I suggest that you think long and hard on why you have the freedom to second guess at such an extraordinary rate.I was in the service at the time those attacks occurred. I reenlisted because I knew that my friends and fellow service members would be going into harms way and I wasn’t about to spend my days as a armchair general watching them on CNN! I have seen more experience in the eyes of a seventeen year old Marine that refused to be acknowledged as a hero when they pinned her Purple Heart to her pillow. For what I saw in her eyes was the same I see in my own, along with every other combat veteran and first responder to 9/11. A true old soul.

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  3. Different Veteran • February 25, 2012 at 10:25 am • Reply

    Well, I liked this post. Nice work, Sam!

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    • Mitchell • May 15, 2012 at 4:11 am • Reply

      Yes! If there are questions or cocrnnes about the NYPD practices, that’s what the courts are for. So far, after 11 years the courts have made little effort to curtail them ,probably because they are legal. Judges are elected and they are almost all Democrats; the fact that these judges who have to be elected and curry favor from Democratic party bosses and district leaders continue to support the NYPD over groups such as the ACLU speaks volumnes. As for Kelly, he has shown himself to be more than just the Top Cop; he has demonstrated an ability to manage budgets that are under stress, curtail friction between groups, and has handled what is clearly a demanding job with competence. Basically, as police commissioner he is already doing what a mayor should be doing.

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    • Chitz • May 17, 2012 at 12:19 am • Reply

      Well that is the stupidest idea I have heard in awihle. I guess it is a good idea if you just want officers to drive around in their cars and not try to do their jobs.PCM, if you like the idea of paying for searches that don’t find anything, then you have been off the street way too long.

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  4. ek • February 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm • Reply

    With all respect mr ‘true old soul.” Because people die, and there are those that want to kill us, it is okay to give up our freedoms and submit to blatant discrimination?

    You might be afraid, but I was raised with harder convictions of my morals.

    I have thought long and hard about why “we have the freedom to second guess,” but then realized the better question is what does this mean, or what is its value?

    If our service members are dying out there in the god-forsaken deserts of the middle east for my freedom, should I let it slip away so easily? Should I not fight the fight harder here, where it’s not bullets but a much subtler force attacking my freedom that you have so valiantly defended!

    Thank you for your service and thoughts. I hope you can open up your eyes and see the difference between the slippery slope that leads to the government having total power over the people vs the people having total power over the government. It starts here.

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  5. Matthew Swaye • February 25, 2012 at 11:15 pm • Reply

    I wear a hoodie cause it’s cold out. You have your hands in my pockets, Officer, because I’m Black. That’s the description I fit. I do not consent to this search. Look for yourself on YouTube. We are creating a decentralized digital museum of the New Jim Crow. Your grandchildren will know what you did for a living. // The question we must all look deep within ourselves and ask is, Why do Black and Brown children keep making guns?

    *Raw Footage* NYPD Arresting Elders in Harlem

    whose side are you on?

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