Since the founding of the anti-imperialist, anti-fascist Queens College (QC) student organization Students Without Borders in April 2013, there have been several attempts on the part of the college administration and CUNY police (‘Public Safety’) to derail the political work of SWB. Indeed, despite the fact that SWB has undergone all the procedures necessary in order to be recognized as a student club, we are not listed along with the other clubs on campus.
The recent repression faced by SWB must be seen in the wider context of the struggle against the militarization of CUNY, a sequence that began with militant actions against the appointment of General Petraeus as adjunct ‘professor’ and arrest of six comrades (the ‘CUNY Six’). The struggle has intensified recently with the illegal seizure of the Morales-Shakur Center at City College of New York (CCNY) by the CCNY adminstration, the subsequent suspension of militant leaders Khalil Vasquez and Tafadar Sourov, and the grotesque indictment and arrest of those young militants by the capitalist state acting in concert with the repressive machinery of the CCNY administration.
In the spring and summer of 2013, administration mysteriously lost the E-Board election paperwork that we had submitted to them. Not long after we resubmitted the paperwork, they lost it again. After submitting the paperwork for the third time, we were finally recognized as a club by the administration. Without election forms, it was impossible to reserve spaces for meetings or other events.
This was the beginning of a pattern of deliberate repression of political work by our organization at QC.
SWB has over thirty members, but we were never offered a club room, even though such a space is normally provided once a club is officially recognized by the administration at QC. This is particularly telling given that there are rooms occupied by non-functioning clubs. There are numerous vacant club rooms on campus.
On October 30, as several comrades from SWB were handing out flyers for the defense of the Morales-Shakur Center at CCNY, an armed ‘Public Safety’ agent approached us, asked questions and demanded a copy of our flyer. After about ten minutes, he left. Five minutes later, a ‘Public Safety’ SUV pulled up next to us. Two agents emerged from the vehicle and repeatedly asked us questions along the lines of: “Is everything okay here”? They claimed that the very fact that we were assembled prompted their queries. It is clear that this incident was an attempt on the part of CUNY security to intimidate us. It is also clear that the reason they tried to intimidate us was referable to the political nature of our activities.
The most recent example of repression that SWB has faced came out of our attempt to hold an event called H.E.R. (Hip-Hop Embraces Revolution) Open Mic, an event dedicated to artistic performances on anti-imperialism, anti-patriarchy and anti-fascism.
I filled out all the paperwork for the event. I originally asked for a room on November 27, but later canceled that request and asked to reserve a room on November 13, because the latter date could be effectively used to mobilize people to attend our upcoming anti-militarization General Assembly planned for November 21.
In the email that I sent to the relevant administrator, I made it abundantly clear that I wanted to cancel the request for a room on November 27 and instead reserve a space for November 13. In her reply, the administrator wrote “no problem,” and stated that she would sign and stamp the form for the location/time in question. This exchange occurred on October 31, two weeks before the event was scheduled.
During the week of the event, it came to our attention that another club somehow reserved the space that we thought we had reserved, at the same time we reserved it. Their event was a screening of the film “Batman.”
The ensuing series of events was an elaborate, bureaucratic farce, although ultimately the bureaucratism only pointed to (and masked) a concentrated effort at political repression.
After we investigated the situation, the administration claimed that we never had reserved the space. They stated that the form was supposed to get signed and stamped by one administrator and then approved by a second. The problem was that Adminstrator Two supposedly never saw the request for November 13, although they did have a record of the request and cancellation of the room for November 27. The cancellation for November 27 was sent to Adminstrator One in the same email as the request for November 13. However, the second part of the message was never passed along by the Adminstrator One to Adminstrator Two.
Thus the area in question was not double-booked; the administrators had just selectively communicated with each other. After speaking with Adminstrator Two, who gave us the approval for a space on November 13 in a new location, we were then supposed to speak with Administrator One to get the newest paperwork signed and stamped. I did this the following day. When speaking with Administrator One, she said that the venue was not suitable for the event, since there would be classes in session and our event would be too loud. She then spoke on the phone with Administrator Two and both agreed that the venue was not suitable, given the nature of our planned event.
Adminstrator Two knew full well the nature of our event the previous day when she approved it, but now she had suddenly and without warning changed her mind. We then realized that there was not enough time to reserve a new space, since our event was supposed to take place the following day. We then spoke with clubs in the student union and got their approval to hold our event in the open common club area, which has been used in the past for similar events in a less formal style without requiring administration approval. We went ahead with our event on November 13, at the originally scheduled time in the common club area.
The event was successful. It put forward a revolutionary political line in a popular way to a large audience. The next day I received an email from Adminstrator One, stating that SWB would not be able to take out any rooms for at all for the rest of the fall semester of 2013, and that if we do hold events without the area reserved in the future, ‘Public Safety’ will shut down the event. We are one of the only (if not the only) club to get such a response from the administration for an informal event such as this. Even though—or rather precisely because—we had a productive meeting and raised funds for Anakbayan-USA’s Typhoon Haiyan relief campaign, we were faced with this harsh penalty.
This repression demonstrates the sharpening of contradictions between revolutionary students and the administration of Queens College. It also demonstrates the increasingly heavy handed tactics used by the CUNY administration. This political repression is only going to increase as we reinforce and expand our connection with the student masses in the course of our militant struggle.