How homeland security has infiltrated academia

Big article in The Nation on how homeland security has affected and dominated academia, not just in research, but also materially:

Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security campus. From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America.

Some of the seven means by which this has happened are long familiar (privatization for one has often formed the backbone of the neoliberal state) or part of larger trends (surveillance).

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators reports that surveillance cameras have found their way onto at least half of all colleges, their numbers on any given campus doubling, tripling or, in a few cases, rising tenfold since September 11, 2001. Such cameras have proliferated by the hundreds on private campuses, in particular. The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has more than 400 watching over it, while Harvard and Brown have about 200 each.

GSU has one well-known webcam, GA Tech has one etc, but these are the least of it. There are many ceiling cameras monitoring across campus (would be interesting to map these).

But the point I wish to highlight here, and I think it’s sometimes overlooked, is how research in academia can be co-opted to support the homeland security agenda.

6. Take over the curriculum, the classroom and the laboratory. Needless to say, not every student is considered a homeland security threat. Quite the opposite. Many students and faculty members are seen as potential assets. To exploit these assets, DHS has launched its own curriculum under its Office of University Programs (OUP), intended, it says, to “foster a homeland security culture within the academic community.”

The record so far is impressive: DHS has doled out 439 federal fellowships and scholarships since 2003, providing full tuition to students who fit “within the homeland security research enterprise.” Two hundred twenty-seven schools now offer degree or certificate programs in “homeland security,” a curriculum that encompasses more than 1,800 courses. Along with OUP, some of the key players in creating the homeland security classroom are the US Northern Command and the Aerospace Defense Command, co-founders of the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium.

OUP has also partnered with researchers and laboratories to “align scientific results with homeland security priorities.” In fiscal year 2008 alone, $4.9 billion in federal funding will go to homeland-security-related research. Grants correspond to sixteen research topics selected by DHS, based on presidential directives, legislation and a smattering of scientific advice.

But wait, there’s more: DHS has founded and funded six of its very own “Centers of Excellence,” research facilities that span dozens of universities from coast to coast. The latest is a Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, the funding for which cleared the House in October. The center is mandated to assist a national commission in combating those “adopting or promoting an extremist belief system…to advance political, religious or social change.”

In geography the most apparent place this has occurred has been in two areas: hazards research and GIS. Hazards research, which has historically focused on natural hazards, has remade itself into a study of human threats, terrorism and the war on terror. This has been a hard sell, because although this seems a natural shift, hazards research was not previously always  informed by political geography or policy.

GIS research on the other hand, has flourished (ESRI offer homeland security grants). GIS and mapping more generally have always had ties to government and the military of course, but the alacrity with which the GIS field has sold itself for grants in homeland security has been dispiriting.

The article does discuss means of resistance (free speech zones)

(Further discussion here on Open Left, including whether the military should have ROTC, ie military, total access to campus if it receives federal funds such as NSF grants. Think what we’d say about that if it were the UK or Guatemala.)

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