In the early afternoon of Tuesday, September 17, 2013, NMSU student and Aggie Solidarity member Alan Dicker was arrested inside the Corbett Center Student Union building at a job fair hosted by Career Services after holding a critical sign beside a National Security Agency (NSA) recruitment booth and refusing orders to leave the building. He received a citation for “Interference with members of staff” and has been charged with three criminal counts: “Criminal trespass (state lands),” “Resisting, evading or obstructing an officer,” and “Disorderly conduct.” Fellow students posted his bail of $250 later in the afternoon. Arresting officers were Sergeant Richard Mcguinn and Shawn Scott of the New Mexico State Police Department.
A member of Aggie Solidarity as well as a sympathizer who witnessed the demonstration and subsequent arrest can attest to Dicker’s calm state leading up to the arrest and in dealing with NMSU and police authorities. His sign, which included an arrow pointed towards the NSA booth, read, “Work for Big Brother. Apply here!” His demonstration was a personal decision to protest the NSA’s surveillance apparatus and abuses of civil liberties in the U.S. and overseas. He was also protesting NMSU’s decision to invite entities such as the NSA on campus, which comes on top of the university’s long term partnerships with government departments and military contractors in ethically-questionable areas such as weapons production. Upon being told to leave by Career Services’ employees, Dean of Students Michael Jasek, and Sergeant Mcguinn, Dicker refused, explaining that he would not willfully leave the Career Fair.
He was cited, asked again to leave Corbett Center and then grabbed by Mcguinn and Scott, who began to force him towards the doors. When Dicker stated that he did not believe they could use such force if he was not being arrested, they placed him under arrest and handcuffed him. Contrary to the criminal complaint later filled out by Mcguinn, which states that Dicker “resisted” attempts by officers to place handcuffs on him or remove him from the premises, Dicker prompted no physical confrontation nor resisted the placing of handcuffs in any way. The “disorderly conduct” charge was added after the arrest, for Dicker yelling back at job-seekers that the whole ordeal was over holding a sign – the first time he had raised his voice. He was taken to a holding cell on the NMSU campus and later transported to the Doña Ana County Detention Center.
The members of Aggie Solidarity believe that the overreaction of NMSU administration to a simple and non-disruptive protest sign, the hostility with which police officers handled the situation, and the absurdity of the charges need to be highlighted in this story. We believe that NMSU’s prioritization of ‘making the campus welcoming’ for big business and big government interests is contributing to an erosion of academic freedom, input in decision-making processes, and spaces for critical commentary. Our campus is a place where students, staff members, and faculty are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation and punishment. We demand that Dicker’s charges be dropped; but we also demand the unconditional protection of criticism and political speech at NMSU, as well as a serious rethinking of university relations with outside business and military/intelligence entities.
On September 17, a student was arrested in Corbett Center. His “crimes” included “trespassing” on state property and disorderly conduct. His actions included standing silently with a cardboard sign and refusing requests to leave. The student was among others at the Career Expo, which hosts various governmental, and private employers such as the CIA, Boeing, and Chevron Phillips. The student – Aggie Solidarity member Alan Dicker – was standing by the National Security Administration’s booth at the Expo, with a sign at his feet reading, “Work for Big Brother. Apply today!” This demonstration was a political protest against the widespread abuses of civil liberties on the part of agencies like the NSA, as well as NMSU’s cozy relations with ethically-questionable corporate and military/intelligence entities.
Although Dicker was detained under the pretense of disrupting the event, the true reason that the administration and police stepped in was his criticism of NMSU’s well-established routine of connecting students to corporate and federal entities. Dicker questioned the NSA’s presence on the campus under invitation from career services and the NMSU administration, just as he has questioned the presence of military and big business interests at NMSU in the past. Students of the university are at this point familiar with on-campus brands such as Barnes & Noble, Sodexo, Panda Express, and Coca-Cola; but we are also seeing our academics increasingly shaped by the likes of Conoco-Phillips, Lockheed Martin, and Monsanto. Federal government interests include military weapons production and drone technology research. These big-name partners bring in money and status to the university while receiving student consumers/workers and turning the campus into an environment ripe for business transactions on many levels. The Career Expo simply furthers these ties. Students have the right to question the legitimacy of this environment. But as we have seen, any attempt at criticism and opposition is shut down for fear of disruption of the norm.
If students of NMSU cannot speak freely about the manner in which their university is run, on campus no less, then we have to conclude that the problems in NMSU administration run far deeper than federal and corporate partnerships. When these partnerships lead the administration to violate students’ First Amendment rights in a frantic attempt to maintain “business as usual,” we must not cease and desist, but question further the corporatization of the educational environment.
-Members of Aggie Solidarity