Defend Student Rights to Free Speech at SFSU sign now

President Robert A. Corrigan, Ph.D.
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

(415) 338-1381
[email protected]

Dear Dr. Corrigan:

On Friday, April 14 ten SFSU students protested military recruitment at the university's career fair. Campus police interrupted their protest and physically took the students from the school's gymnasium where they were protesting. The police then notified the students that they were banned from campus.

You officially confirmed the ban that same day, and the campus chief of police notified students that if they returned to campus prior to April 28th, they would be "subject to immediate arrest." When the students called to request a hearing, they were told they would have to wait until May.

We were glad to hear - for the sake of the students - that you withdrew the ban three days later, on Monday. Several students who lived or worked on campus became instantly homeless or unemployed by your arbitrary action. At this point, the students are waiting for the other shoe to drop, as they have heard no word as to whether disciplinary proceedings will come next. Students report that the university waited over a week to notify students of charges against them in a previous situation.

The world has witnessed a full display of intimidation tactics by SFSU against the students, from rough behavior when the police physically removed nonviolent students from the career fair, to your serving notice on them that they were banned -- without a prior hearing -- from campus for 2 weeks. Any pretense of due process was thrown out the window when your office informed them that they could not have a hearing until after their banishment ended. Now, they face the prospect of discipline. And for what?

They distributed anti-military recruitment leaflets, talked to recruiters and potential recruits, and chanted phrases such as, "Killing Iraqis is no career! Recruiters are not welcome here!" We understand that the chants were loud, but that the students were peaceful and committed to nonviolence.

We also understand that the police aggression came as a shock to the students, who hadn't planned to get arrested or cited, and who were not given any warning prior to detainment. Reportedly, police rapidly lined up in front of the students, intimidated them and began physically pulling students out of the career fair. Students say that this behavior breached a police policy against mishandling students.

This incident at SFSU has come at a time when students nationwide are facing oppression for protesting this academic year. We have heard of the recent incident at UC Santa Cruz where police roughed up two female students who were leaving at the end of the protest. Earlier this academic year, student protesters were threatened with serious discipline at Holyoke Community College (MA), George Mason University (VA), Kent State University, Wisconsin at Madison, Hampton University (VA), and Pace University (NY). In each case, the university backed down in the face of an international outcry against repression of peaceful protests against war and military recruitment. Such an outcry is building now concerning SFSU's actions.

As the students have pointed out, SFSU is a university with a legacy of protests, starting with the student strike of 1968. The 10 students with Students Against War, a chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), were exercising their rights to free speech and carrying forth the proud tradition of students before them.

Indeed, this is not the first time SFSU has sought to suppress the speech of its students dissenting from recruitment to the war in Iraq. Just over a year ago, on March 9, 2005, according to "A New Battleground on Campuses" by Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, a member of CAN's national coordinating committee, "200 students rallied against recruitment on campus in protest of the war and the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ultimately driving recruiters out of the campus career fair with their peaceful chanting and placards. The SFSU administration then decided to single out two student groups (among the six sponsors) and three students for disciplinary action." Both student groups were put on probation and had their funding eliminated. The three students, meanwhile, have never had their cases resolved - with SFSU neither disciplining them, nor being willing to forgo its claim to discipline them in the future for their protest last spring. The lack of punishment so far may be attributable to the international outrage provoked by the case, as well as a sister case on the same day, where three students and a staff member at City College New York (CCNY) were assaulted by campus security, arrested, and banned from campus during a peaceful protest against military recruiters at their career fair. The community response to both cases led to the CCNY administration, and the New York District Attorney's office, dropping all charges.

Let's not forget what these students - "the SFSU 10?" - were protesting. They were protesting the military's recruiting students into 'careers' that would foster death, destruction and injustice. They were trying to protect their fellow students from serious risks of their being among the tens of thousands of US troops killed, maimed or traumatized in Iraq. They were trying to protect students from participating in war crimes - a war in which 100,000 or more Iraqis have been killed, according to the peer reviewed Lancet study; a war in which the US uses uranium, a radioactive neurotoxin, in munitions; a war in which 1 in 4 combat marines admitted to having killed a civilian, with 8 in 10 having reported seeing injured women or children whom they were unable to help (Boston Globe, July 1, 2004).

These horrors and crimes are not cited in military recruitment materials. Instead, students are fed lies about military careers and benefits.

If anything, the protesters should be praised. You should be joining them in condemning recruitment that enables the continued occupation and destruction of Iraq. You should support students who are trying to protect their peers from the untold physical and mental risks of war, whether it's this one or the one that the US is planning against Iran. You should be proud of students who will not condone hate against their peers by a homophobic and sexist military.

Further, SFSU professes to be part of and to care about the Bay Area community. Do you care what your community thinks about the war and military recruitment? As Bonnie Weinstein of the Bay Area United Against the War has pointed out in a letter to you, in November, 2005, the voters of San Francisco voted to stop the war in Iraq and to bring troops home immediately, and they voted to get the military out of San Francisco schools. And, in the San Francisco Unified School District, 95 percent of parents signed the district's Opt-Out form, making it clear that they don't want the military in contact with their children. As she wrote in her letter, "the least that all school administrations could do is actively fight the No Child Left Behind Act and stand in full support of all those who protest the militarization of our schools and the ongoing presence of the military whenever they show up."

We stand in defense of the SFSU protesters and call on you to take no disciplinary action against them and to apologize to them for violating of their civil liberties and human rights. We believe the university should also compensate any of the group who may have become homeless or otherwise suffered economic hardship because of the SFSU actions. And we invite you to join us as we renew our efforts to build the movement to end this war, bring all the troops home now, and institute reparations for the people of Iraq.

Sincerely, the undersigned:*

Ahmed Shawki, editor, International Socialist Review and board member of the National Council of Arab Americans;
Alan Maass, editor of Socialist Worker newspaper;
Annie and Buddy Spell, Covington Peace Project_Covington, LA;
Anthony Arnove, author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, co-editor with Howard Zinn, Voices of a Peoples History of the US;
Betsy Corner, Wmass activist and tax resister, she was a subject of the documentary film "An Act of Conscience;"
Bonnie Weinstein, Bay Area United Against War;
Brian Kelly, student organizer and victim of repression; Pace University Campus Antiwar Network and Students for a Democratic Society;
S. Brian Willson, J.D., LL.D._Member, coordinating Committee, Humboldt Bay Veterans For Peace, Arcata, CA;_Commissioner, Arcata City Nuclear Free Zone and Peace Commission;
Camilo Mejia, war resister who spent six months in military prison for refusing to return to Iraq;
Carolyn Fuller, Senior Analyst/ Programmer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
Charles Jenks, Chair of Advisory Board, Traprock Peace Center;
Charles Peterson, member of the International Socialist Organization and student victim of repression at Holyoke Community College;
Charlie Jackson for Texans for Peace;
Christopher Schwartz, Co-president of the UNI Students for Social Justice; Coordinating Committee member of the Campus Anti-War Network (CAN); President of Cedar Valley United for Peace & Justice; Publisher of The Legacy; Editor and Chief of College Not Combat; Organizing Committee of the Midwest Social Forum;
Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace and mother of Casey Sheehan, who died in Iraq;
Dahr Jamail, indepdendent journalist;
David Rovics, progressive songwriter and musician;
Dave Stratman, Editor, NewDemocracyWorld.com;
David Swanson, co-founder, AfterDowningStreet.org, DontAttackIran.org;
Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General who resigned in protest as the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq;
Dennis Kyne, Gulf War veteran and activist;
Dirk Adriaensens, coordinator of SOS Iraq and member of the Executive committee of the Brussells Tribunal;
Dorinda Moreno, hitec aztec communications co-moderator, indyiraqaction, central coast diversity alliance;
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, NYU, national coordinating committee of Campus Antiwar Network;
Eric Ruder, writer, Socialist Worker;
Gabriele Zamparini, independent filmmaker, writer and journalist living in London; co-producer with The Cats Dream;
Hans-Christof von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary General who resigned in protest as the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq;
Jacob Flowers, Director, Mid-South Peae and Justice Center, Memphis;
John Robinson, student organizer who faced repression at Hampton University (Virginia);
Hadi Jawad, Crawford Peace House;
Josey Foo for San Juan Peace Network (New Mexico);
Judy Linehan, MFSO mother of Iraq War Veteran;
Kathy Kelly, Voices of Creative Nonviolence;
Katrina Yeaw, SAW/CAN at San Francisco State University, studying in Italy;
Kelly Dougherty, co-founder Iraq Veterans Against the War;
Kevin Ramirez for the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors and Military Out of Our Schools-Bay Area;
Kristin Anderson, student organizer, SAW/CAN, SFSU;
Lindsey German, convener, Stop the War Coalition (UK);
Lon Burnam, Executive Director, Dallas Peace Center;
Marc Herold, Professor, Departments of Economics and Women's Studies, University of New Hampshire;
Medea Benjamin, cofounder, Global Exchange and CODEPINK;
Michaelann Bewsee, Director, Arise for Social Justice (MA);
Michael Smith, Bay Area activist; a founding member of the Campus Antiwar Network who faced campus repression as a member of the Berkeley 3;
Natylie Baldwin, Mt. Diablo Peace & Justice Center;
Nick Mottern, National Director of Consumers for Peace, ExxonMobil War Boycott;
Nikki Robinson, student organizer, KSAWC/CAN, Kent State University;
Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death;
Paola Pisi, professor of religious studies (Italy) and editor of uruknet.info;
Pav Akhtar, Convenor, NUS (UK) Internationalism Campaign;
Phil Gasper, Chair, Department of Philosophy & Religion, Nortre Dame de Namur University;
Randy Kehler, veteran of the peace movement and co-founder of the Traprock Peace Center (1979), the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and the Working Group on Electoral Democracy;
Sanford Russell, veteran and moderator of BoycottUS yahoo group;
Sara Flounders, International Action Center co-director;
Sharon Smith, author of Women and Socialism: Essays on Womens Liberation;
Sheila Rosenthal, Lafayette Area Peace Coalition (Indiana);
Sunny Miller, Executive Director, for Traprock Peace Center;
Tariq Khan, George Mason University student and Air Force vet assaulted and arrested for peaceful protest;
Dr. Thomas Fasy, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine;
Thomas F. Barton, editor of "GI Special;"
Tim Carpenter, National Director, Progressive Democrats of America;
Todd Chretien, Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in California;
Valley Reed, March to Redeem the Soul of America, Texas;
Vicky Steinitz, Associate Professor (retired), U Mass/Boston;
Ward Reilly, SE National Contact - Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Baton Rouge;
Wes Hannah, Cornell University, Campus Antiwar Network national Coordinating Committee;
William McAvinney, Information Architect, MIT

*Affiliations are for identification purposes only, except as indicated.

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Paula DennisBy:
Culture and SocietyIn:
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Robert A. Corrigan, Ph.D., President, San Francisco State University

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