“How can we retain students? Let’s stop arresting them…”
- Roger Salerno, Pace Professor (Photo: Thomas Good)
New York, NY – December 11, 2006 Around Noon on December 11th, 2006, the Pace University downtown campus, on Park Row, was quiet. As the first journalist on the scene I hung out near the undeployed NYPD barricades. Eventually Frank MacDonald, head of Pace security, approached me and asked who I wrote for – after I related that I was there to cover a faculty protest for Next Left Notes he walked off. A group of Pace professors had called an action in defense of 5 students who had been arrested for demonstrating on the grounds of the University (on November 15, 2006). At 12:30 pm things got lively. A small procession of Pace faculty approached the campus, walking north up Nassau Street. Some SDSers walked over to greet their professors: Chris Malone of the Poly Sci department and Amy Foerster of Sociology. The small concrete courtyard outside the vertical Pace campus quickly filled with SDS and their friends as the faculty members arrived. Malone ascended the steps and addressed the crowd.
“For some unknown reason some of our students were arrested here at Pace…”
- Chris Malone, Pace Professor (Photo: Thomas Good)
“I don’t want to be here”, said Malone. “I have papers to grade. None of these other faculty members want to be here either,” he added. “But unfortunately we have to be here, we have to be here. The reason why we have to be here is because, for some unknown reason, some of our students were arrested here at Pace University several weeks ago.” Malone concluded his remarks by declaring the Pace campus a “Free Speech Alley”. The crowd of faculty and students cheered as Pace security looked on.
After Malone spoke, Gus Karam, a member of the Economics Department who teaches at the Pleasantville campus (PLV), grabbed Lauren Giaccone’s hat and passed it – raising money for her legal defense – and all of the first amendment activists arrested by the NYPD. Other faculty members began circulating letters asking Pace President Caputo to drop all charges against the SDSers who were arrested on their own campus.
John Cronan, a Pace SDSer and one of the arrestees, spoke about how the SDSers were not arrested for trespass – Pace did not issue a trespass complaint – but were instead arrested by the NYPD for disorderly conduct on the private property of Pace University. He pointed out that on the day he was arrested, in the midst of an SDS protest, there was a large police presence. “Where are the cops today?” he asked. Cronan went on to describe incidents of what he alleges are Pace administration targeting SDS activists. “Why are they taking down SDS fliers?” he asked. “They are taking down only SDS fliers…and they’ve lost our application (for recognition) twice…SDS is being targeted,” he said. Cronan argued that “Any student should be allowed to post fliers.”
Professor Roger Salerno spoke next, getting off the best one-liner of the day. Salerno noted that Pace has a student retention problem. “How can we retain students? Let’s stop arresting them,” he said.
Members of Pace SDS look on as their professors defend free expression (Photo: Thomas Good)
Karla Jay, an English Department professor, spoke about her experiences at Columbia in 1968 – noting that she “didn’t want this speak out to be another event where only white men spoke” and that in ’68 the police didn’t just arrest SDS, they arrested everyone. In a barb directed at Pace President Caputo’s penchant for arresting students in the name of ‘security’, Jay pointed out that “Pace University is on the minds of terrorists all over the world.” Jay was followed by a recent graduate of Pace. This alumnus spoke about the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela – and how this form of peoples’ government should be a model in the US. Concluding the speak out, Amy Foerster, a faculty member from the Sociology Department, invited all present to accompany the faculty members as they delivered a stack of letters – urging Caputo to drop ALL charges against his students – to the President’s office. As Foerster spoke, onlookers continued to sign letters…
As a member of the press I was signed in by a student, a member of Pace SDS who wanted to ensure accountability. Riding up the 18th floor in a crowded elevator I was surprised to learn that Caputo would receive the faculty and student delegation. At the President’s office members of the press were denied admittance – Pace spokesperson Chris Cory said that Caputo was having a “private meeting” with the delegation. After an hour or so a student named Lisa Basile emerged – she reported that Caputo “is not listening…he is showing disrespect to students and people generally.” Eventually all of the 50 member strong delegation emerged and members of Pace SDS reported that no solution to the crisis had been found.
When asked to comment by NLN, former SDS National Secretary and ex-Weatherman Mark Rudd, who now teaches algebra at the University of New Mexico, said: “It’s inspiring to see faculty out there marching and speaking on behalf of their students. My experience at Columbia in 1968 was that teachers rarely took any risks. The free speech struggle at Pace continues to grow!”