Yesterday a series of e-mails were obtained by Gawker in which the CUNY administration discusses its intention to move David Petraeus’s seminar to the 16th floor of West 57th Street due to security concerns. Though administrators posted the notice of the location change on the website a week ago, those announcements made no mention of the heightened security measures or the lockout of all other meetings using the 16th floor. Student protesters are aware of the impending move and are formulating a new protest strategy at the new location.
The e-mails reveal that the administration will require a CUNY ID to access the 16th floor on Mondays, the scheduled meeting day of Petraeus’ seminar. The school will also move any other meetings held on that floor so that Petraeus and his class will be the only group meeting there.
The building at West 57th Street, a common classroom building for CUNY students, has a secured parking garage that will allow Petraeus to slip in and out of the building easily.
Sharmin Hossain, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY, tells Runnin’ Scared that although the tighter security will remove Petraeus from the public eye, the protests will follow him to the building, and that the building itself is more heavily trafficked than the old location in the Upper West Side, not less.
“Him coming in and out is not a central determinant for how we organize,” says Hossain.
Protesting Petraeus, Hossain explains, is only part of their mission. Because of his visibility, the former general is a good symbol for what the Ad Hoc Committee is actually after: calling attention to the accommodations the CUNY administration has made to the U.S. military, and to the desensitization to war and violence on campus and beyond.
That includes removing the Reserve Officer Training Corps for all of CUNY’s campuses, limiting military recruiters’ access to students, and bringing the university’s relationship with the NYPD under closer scrutiny.
“We really want to keep the focus of the protest on CUNY as an institution,” says Hossain, citing the school’s reluctance to dismiss the general under the guise of academic freedom.
“There are many levels of dialog are happening,” says Hossain. “It just happens that David Petraeus is a very clear target.”
Click through for video of past CUNY protests, including the demonstration that resulted in six student arrests.