NEW YORK – Brooklyn College faculty passed a resolution condemning the New York Police Department’s infiltration of Muslim student groups, complaining that it threatens intellectual freedom and the civil rights of both pupils and teachers, the college said Monday.
The college’s Faculty Council voted unanimously to condemn the practice, part of a broad intelligence-gathering operation that the NYPD has built in the last decade with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency. The collaboration was a focus of an Associated Press investigation, prompting the CIA to probe whether its actions violated laws that bar the agency from spying on Americans.
“The use of undercover police agents and the cultivation of police informers on campus have a chilling effect on the intellectual freedom necessary for a vibrant academic community,” the resolution said.
The Faculty Council passed the resolution on Sept. 13. It was first reported on Monday by NYPD Confidential, a blog run by reporter Leonard Levitt. A spokesman for the college, Jeremy Thompson, confirmed the resolution’s passage and said Monday that college President Karen Gould shared the professors’ concerns.
The AP’s investigation revealed that the CIA helped the NYPD set up a unit to monitor mosques, cafes and restaurants frequented by Muslims. It also placed undercover officers in student groups to listen to discussions.
“That’s what’s so troubling here: that it seemed like … this was a giant fishing expedition,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor who drafted the faculty resolution. “That seemed to be really beyond the pale of acceptable behavior, especially on a college campus.”
A 2006 document obtained by the AP listed a Muslim student association at Brooklyn College as one of seven college groups “of concern” in the city. It cited “militant paintball trips” and fundamentalist speakers.
The other groups were at Hunter College, La Guardia Community College, Baruch College, St. John’s University, City College of New York and Queens College.
The documents say police had undercover agents in the Muslim student associations at Brooklyn College and Baruch College.
The NYPD has said publicly that it only follows leads and does not troll for information.
Gould met with faculty on Sept. 13 and told them that police had informed administrators about any spying, Vitale said.
Brooklyn College has about 16,900 students and is part of the City University of New York.