NYPD infiltration of colleges raises privacy fears

Islamic Society members said it has been years since members did any organized paintball trips. They scoffed at the NYPD report, noting that the club has also organized basketball, football and cricket games in the past.

“You could say the same thing about football,” said Karim Azzat, 19, a sophomore film major. “You know, football’s violent. They could say, ‘They’re trying to teach Muslims how to hit.'”

The City University of New York says it knew nothing about the infiltration at the time. Police have not acknowledged to administrators that such a program ever existed, CUNY spokesman Michael Arena said.

But individual colleges said they were concerned.

“It is our view that except in extraordinary circumstances where specific evidence links a member of a campus community to terrorist activities, the college community should not be involved with any such surveillance,” said Maria Terrone, a spokeswoman for Queens College.

“Had anyone on this campus been aware of this, we would have condemned it,” said Jeremy Thompson, a spokesman for Brooklyn College.

At Baruch, administrators do not believe they have a problem with student radicalization, said spokeswoman Christina Latouf.

Professors have called the surveillance an attack on academic freedom. The Brooklyn College Faculty Council unanimously passed a resolution saying it would have a “chilling effect on the intellectual freedom necessary for a vibrant academic community.”

Forty-three law professors at the CUNY School of Law signed a statement last week warning that such surveillance may have violated students’ civil rights.

Undercover officers may also have violated a 1992 memorandum of understanding between CUNY and the NYPD, said Ramzi Kassem, one of the law professors.

That agreement says that in non-emergency situations, police “shall enter upon CUNY campuses, buildings and other property only upon the request or approval of a CUNY official.”

Meanwhile, students said they worried the surveillance on campus could follow them after graduation or extend to their families and workplaces.

“We have nothing to hide. But this is obviously baby steps: it could lead to something greater,” said Sultan Alreyashi, 18, a freshman. “They could say, ‘Oh, now we need to investigate the mosques, now we need to investigate whatever.’ So it becomes very disturbing to the whole community, not just to students in college. You give them a hand, they take a whole arm.”

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