GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
MINUTES OF THE FACULTY SENATE
MARCH 9, 2005
Senators Present: Kevin Avruch, Jim Bennett, Rei Berroa, Alok Berry, Lorraine Brown, Richard Carver, Richard Coffinberger, Charlene Douglas, Bob Ehrlich, Esther Elstun, Michael Ferri, Mark Houck, David Kuebrich, Jane McDonald, Jim Metcalf, Ami Motro, Robert Nadeau, Larry Rockwood, James Sanford, Joseph Scimecca, Suzanne Slayden, Clifton Sutton, Tojo Thatchenkery, Susan Trencher, Phil Wiest, Stanley Zoltek
Senators Absent: Rei Berroa, Michelle Boardman, Deborah Boehm-Davis, Russ Brayley, Phillip Buchanan, Sara Cobb, Warren Decker, Martin De Nys, Jeff Gorrell, Lloyd Griffiths, Kingsley Haynes, Bruce Johnsen, Kristin Johnsen-Neshafti, Dan Joyce, Menas Kafatos, Carol Kaffenberger, Rich Klimoski, Jim Kozlowski, Julie Mahler, Alan Merten, Linda Monson, Jean Moore, Patricia Moyer-Packenham, Peter Pober, Daniel Polsby, Jane Razeghi, William Reeder, Priscilla Regan, Esperanza Roman-Mendoza, Christine Smith, Peter Stearns, Daniele Struppa, June Tangney, Shirley Travis, Iosif Vaisman, John Zenelis
Guests Present: Rita Ailinger (CNHS), Ana Alonso (MCL), Mario Ascencio (Library), Nilaya Baccus (Registrar’s Office), Jaime Coniglio (Library), Friedgard Cowan (Library), John Euliano (Library), Don Faxon (CCS/AES), Bill Fleming (Library), Don Gantz (IT&E), George Ginovsky (University Police), Carol Gould (CAS), Zennia Hancock (MCL), Heather G. Hannan (Library), Robin Herron (Creative Services), Barbara Hillson (Library), Cathy Hubbs (Information Technology), Susan Jones (Registrar), Bridget Miller (Library), Lene Palmer (Library), Emily Sheketoff (ALA), Kevin Simons (Library), Mark Smith (AAUP), Michael Terry (Library)
The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m.
Jim Bennett, Chair of the Faculty Senate, announced that Joe Scimecca, President of the George Mason University chapter of the AAUP would facilitate this special joint meeting to consider “University Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties” (Attachment A), drafted by the American Library Association.
Dr. Scimecca briefly described the format. Mark Smith, Director, Government Relations Office, AAUP and Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, Washington Office, ALA would make brief presentations. Then spokespeople for campus units addressed in the Resolution would be allowed to speak, followed by those who had prepared statements in opposition to the Resolution. After this, there would be open discussion. At the end of the meeting, if those present so wanted, there would be a vote to approve or reject the Resolution.
Mark Smith stated that the USA PATRIOT ACT was hastily passed by Congress with overwhelming approval a few weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The AAUP feels sections of the Act unnecessarily restrict civil liberties. Supporters of the Act argue that since 9-11 the world has changed and so must we; and that criticism of the Act is sometimes considered unpatriotic. Smith countered these arguments by noting the questionable nature of the disputed parts of the Act and arguing that it is important to maintain the freedom of expression to question such laws. Because the law was passed so quickly, some members of Congress insisted on sunset provisions (due to expire this year) on sections of the law. President Bush has urged Congress to enact these sections as permanent legislation. The effects of the PATRIOT Act on campuses include the increased monitoring of students, particularly foreign students; the expansion of the ability of law enforcement to collect data without knowledge of the subject/user of the information as well as curbs on areas of research such as biotoxins. Section 215 of the Act pertains to the gathering of information about individuals’ records of books and other materials obtained from libraries, purchases from campus bookstores, and electronic communications or transactions. The law provides for this information to be obtained by federal agents without this fact being brought to the attention of the individual whose records are being monitored or to the attention of the community at large. In a speech given in 2003, then Attorney General John Ashcroft stated that Section 215 had never been used, but he nevertheless continued to insist that it was vital to have this law on the books. Section 215 also prohibits discussion of any arrests which may have been made under its provisions. Smith warned the audience not to underestimate the difficulty of gathering information about what actions the government has taken. A committee of the national AAUP has proposed the “Freedom to Read Protection Act” which would remove from the Act the “sneak and peak” provisions allowing the government to monitor bookstore and library records.
Emily Sheketoff stated that the ALA began to express concern about the PATRIOT Act almost as soon as it was passed, seeing it as an attack upon civil liberties. She stated that it was important for the Senate to pass a Resolution opposing the Act. At this time, many different groups need to communicate their unease to Congress. Sheketoff said that currently 357 jurisdictions have passed resolutions opposing parts of the Patriot Act; as have at least forty-six universities (about half of these were faculty and about half student resolutions). In addition, four states have also passed resolutions. Sheketoff pointed out that a very chilling wind has passed through Washington after the passage of this legislation--if you question the PATRIOT Act your patriotism is questioned. Every time the ALA has brought up objections, its spokespeople have been denounced as “hysterical.” The Act and the current political climate are especially threatening to a university setting with its need for academic freedom. Sheketoff urged the Senate to let its congressional representatives and the public know that the real way terrorists win is if they destroy our way of life – the freedoms we cherish.
Joe Scimecca then recognized George Ginovsky, Assistant Chief of Police at George Mason University. He stated he was not speaking as an advocate or critic of the Act, but would simply comment on Section 4 of the proposed resolution as it addressed the Campus Police. Section a: The campus police do not participate in joint terrorism task forces. They do, however, maintain a close relationship with the FBI – a liaison beneficial to the school. Citing the example of a warning issued in October 2003 regarding university campuses as “soft” targets for terrorists, Mr. Ginovsky stated that in subsequent discussions with the local FBI director it was learned that there was nothing special about the vulnerability of universities, i.e.; cruise ships, shopping malls, K-12 schools, etc., were also considered soft targets. Sections b and c: the concerns raised by these sections do not apply to GMU because the campus police do not engage in these activities. Stake-outs and surveillance do occur on occasion, but these are not political in nature and are limited to protection against ordinary forms of criminal activity Section d: The campus police observe a nationally accredited policy that prohibits racial profiling. Section e: the campus police do not maintain a database other than a criminal history database. Section f: There are 32 surveillance cameras for general law enforcement located on campus – they have no political uses, but exist for crime prevention only. Section g: When another agency comes to campus to execute a search warrant (an infrequent occurrence), the campus police do not get involved. However, they do ask for an affidavit and a list of items taken and for what reason. Section h: The campus police do not stop students for the purpose of scrutinizing their identification documents without particularized suspicion of criminal activity.
Michael Terry of University Libraries reported that the librarians convened a special meeting in March 2003 to establish procedures should a law enforcement officer request information under the PATRIOT Act: library employees are to refer the request to designated librarians. A warrant or subpoena must be produced. At a meeting held March 1, 2005, the librarians expressed concern about the broad scope of the proposed resolution. They would like to see a copy of the final resolution before considering any action in regard to it. They have already reviewed resolutions passed at other universities that were limited to issues of particular concern to librarians.
Cathy Hubbs, Information Technology Security Coordinator noted that user data are wiped out every twenty-four hours across all University computer laboratories to protect against malicious acts. The Star Labs maintain individual user data for their records only. This practice is not a response to the PATRIOT Act.
Susan Jones, University Registrar, noted that one important function of the Registrar’s Office is to maintain the privacy of student records and to only release them under carefully defined circumstances. The release of this information is controlled by the 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as modified in 1994. If the Registrar’s Office receives a request for information under subpoena or court order which specifically prohibits making the request known to the student, the Office must comply under penalty of criminal offense.
Don Gantz of IT&E presented a “Statement Opposing the Resolution before the Faculty Senate from the AAUP and the American Library Association” (Attachment B) cosigned by fifteen faculty members. He also noted that the Senate represents the entire faculty. Before acting on a Resolution such as this, it should “feel the pulse” of the entire group. The proposed Resolution does not reflect the will of the faculty, and passing it would seriously damage the Senate’s credibility.
Following these statements, the meeting opened to general discussion. Several arguments were made against the Resolution:
--The disputed provisions of the PATRIOT Act are necessary to protect our national security.
--It is improper for the Senate (as opposed to a voluntary organization) to consider a political resolution of this type.
--The sentiments of the Resolution are too liberal and passing it would alienate the public. (Virginia is a “red state.”)
Some faculty expressed concern regarding the tone of the language, stating that although they shared some of the concerns raised by the Resolution, they could not support it in its current form.
Other faculty spoke in favor of the Resolution:
--Citizens and faculty in particular should be reluctant to concede basic Constitutional rights. The government still has not taken obvious steps to insure our safety, yet it has assumed the right to monitor our reading and electronic communications and to secretly search our homes and offices.
--The PATRIOT Act and accompanying legislation, as well as the proposed “PATRIOT II,” reflect a disturbing movement toward governmental encroachment on our liberties.
--Passing the Resolution is an effective way of registering our concern to our congressional representatives.
A motion was made and seconded to establish a task force to rephrase the Resolution, altering its tone but maintaining its general thrust. The motion passed with a divided vote (17 in favor, 6 opposed). The meeting adjourned at 4:14 p.m.