New York University and the military-university complex

By Isaac Finn, 27 January 2017

Last fall, the New York University Student Activities Board (SAB) rejected the application submitted by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) for club status. In its initial application, the IYSSE had stressed its goal of giving voice to the broad anti-war sentiments of students on campus. In the course of appealing the SAB’s decision, reached despite the fact that the IYSSE had collected the signatures of over 200 students supporting its application and met all other requirements for club status, the IYSSE was told by the SAB that it rejects nearly 90 percent of all groups that apply.

This arbitrary and undemocratic process is in large part aimed at vetting and restricting the political opinions to which students on campus have access. To launch its drive to obtain club status this year, the IYSSE is holding a meeting on Thursday, February 2 at 7 pm at Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall. The address is 55 Washington Square South. The title of the meeting is “The way forward in the fight against the Trump administration.”

NYU’s close connection to the US war machine sheds light on why the university administration would want to prevent students from hearing a socialist anti-war perspective. The ties between American colleges and universities and the national security apparatus—financial, political and professional—are manifold and widespread. NYU exemplifies the US military-university complex in a particularly concentrated manner.

According to a 2015 report from VICE News, NYU is one of the most militarized universities in the country, receiving $16,282,000 in Department of Defense Research and Development funding in 2013, the last year for which data was available at the time of publication. The Defense Department gives funds in order to “achieve agency and national goals,” according to the Defense Department web site, and focuses on the development of new technologies for surveillance and weaponry.

For a significant portion of the NYU faculty, there is a revolving door between the university and the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI and various surveillance agencies. The university employs numerous current and former officials from these agencies, who play a major role in shaping academic programs and determining what students study.

One recent NYU jobs listing on a defense-related blog gives a sense of the university’s cozy relationship to the war machine of American imperialism.

The listing seeks a new employee for the NYU School of Law’s Center on Law and Security, whose purpose, the notice explains, is “to make our national security policies more effective, legitimate, and sustainable through its publications, student programs, and events.”

The notice points out that “in the past several months, the Center’s activities have included hosting US elected officials, the Deputy Director of the CIA, and a meeting of a Presidential commission.” It touts its close connections to “former government attorneys, including General Counsels of member agencies of the US Intelligence Community and senior federal prosecutors focused on cybersecurity and counterterrorism issues.”

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