No Hero’s Welcome for Petraeus at CUNY

Students protest retired Gen. David Petraeus class at CUNY. (Photo by Pamela Granda)

Students protest retired Gen. David Petraeus class at CUNY. (Photo by Pamela Granda/Voices of NY)

David H. Petraeus, the former C.I.A. director and commander of the allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, did not get exactly a hero’s welcome on his first day of teaching at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College on Monday afternoon.

Carrying protest signs, members of the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY, an organization of students and faculty, stood outside the college’s entrance on the Upper West Side, protesting the university’s decision to have Petraeus as a visiting professor.

Petraeus is teaching a seminar entitled “The Coming (North) American Decade(s)?” It is being taught to a select group of 16 students. According to the syllabus, the course is “an undergraduate level discussion seminar for students interested in understanding how well-designed public policy can enable (North) America to capitalize on the tide of science and technology revolutions that will shape the coming decade(s).”

The appointment of Petraeus created a firestorm earlier this year when it was reported that he would make $150,000 to lecture three hours a week. He later agreed to receive $1 instead.

Students protest retired Gen. David Petraeus class at CUNY. (Photo by Pamela Granda)

The protest was organized by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY. (Photo by Pamela Granda/Voices of NY)

The protesters also criticized a series of actions by CUNY that they say target minority students.

Among these is the revival of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program across CUNY. The program, removed from the university system following demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the 1970s, is being implemented across several colleges, including Medgar Evers, John Jay and York.

“There’s been a widespread interest on the part of students interested in choosing [ROTC] courses,” said Michael Arena, director of communications and marketing at CUNY. “ROTC has a curriculum and [it is] introduced at different colleges. It’s actually very structured and if you were to look at other campuses around the country, it’s very similar. Students have an opportunity to take those courses along with their regular courses and opt into a career [in the armed forces] when they graduate.”

Demonstrators also expressed outrage over CUNY’s growing relationship with the NYPD in connection with the surveillance of Muslim students.

“I’m concerned about the needs of my fellow students and my community, and so I dedicate my time to push for our interests,” said Taf Sourov, a student activist at Hunter College. “For that reason, the NYPD decides that it’s okay to spy on me, and all the other Muslim students in CUNY because we represent a terrorist threat, apparently.”

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