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ebapic (25K)Corporate Plantation: Political Repression and the Hampton Model
By John Robinson and Brandon King

Heavy-handed Repression of recent Student Activism
On Wednesday November 2, 2005 at Hampton University, the progressive campus group affiliated with Amnesty International, United Students Against Sweatshops, and Campus Anti-War Network held a student walk-out on the issues of New Orleans urban renewal, AIDS crisis, homophobia, the prison industrial complex, the war in Iraq, and the crisis in Sudan.

The organizers for the group had been planning the action for sometime, and promoted it with radio announcements, posters around the campus, and handing out fliers at campus group meetings. The planned activities included speeches, chants, poetry, and musical performances. Earlier that day an international student was subjected to intense interrogation by the Dean of Women and was told by the Hampton University police that she would be shadowed by a cop.

At twelve noon Brandon King began to speak to about 75-100 students in the Student Center about our plans for the day. We handed out information on the Iraq war and the Katrina disaster. Then armed HU police abruptly shut down our activities.

The HU police booked several people just because they were wearing stickers and other paraphernalia that advertised our events. They booked people who weren't even wearing paraphernalia because they looked suspicious. The police used hand-held camcorders to record the faces of the activists without our permission.

They attempted to intimidate the student onlookers by their random targeting. Three of us were singled out as leaders by the Dean of Men and HU police, who temporarily confiscated our students ID cards. The next day, one leader of our group, Brandon King, was told by a Hampton University Lieutenant Detective that, despite the fact that he was a "hometown athlete," he would be expelled if he did not cooperate and give up the names of other group members.

Now Brandon, three sophomore activists, a junior activist, a non-affiliated supporter and myself have all been summoned to an administrative hearing for violating the code of student conduct by "actions to cajole or proselytize students", "distributing and/or posting unauthorized information", and "violating the administrative guidelines for student demonstrations".

The students were given notice at 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 18 to appear at an administrative hearing at 10:00 a.m. Monday, November 21. This short notice obviously made it virtually impossible for the students to organize support from lawyers, parents, witnesses, other students, and sympathetic organizations both on campus and in the wider community. Nevertheless, the administration received many calls and e-mails and agreed on Monday morning to postpone the hearings indefinitely. Upon returning to school from thanksgiving break on Monday November 28, the students learned that the hearings had been rescheduled for Friday, December 2.

Shortly before the break, students met with local reporters in a nearby shopping center owned by the administration. As the students described to the reporters the repressive conditions they face at Hampton University, a Hampton University cop sent by the Dean of Students confirmed the students' allegations. He pulled his squad car to within inches of the camera man and cut short the interview by stepping in between the camera man and the student interviewee.

After the reporters put their camera away inside their car, the police still demanded that they leave the property. The video footage of these events was shown on the nightly news. The story also appeared the next day as the cover story in the local newspaper, The Daily Press. The Dean of Students, in turn, wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Press responding that the school encourages peaceful protest, and the kids who face discipline refused to use the legitimate routes. This letter was mass copied and two copies were placed on every dorm door on campus.

Repressive Rules, Selective Enforcement
It is clear that the school seeks to quell all social activism by maintaining repressive rules and selectively enforcing them against any progressive student activism. "Actions to cajole and/or proselytize students" constitute an offense that is so vague and broad that virtually every student, teacher, and administrator is guilty of it every day. To "cajole" is defined as trying to influence or manipulate others through insincere arguments, which is something Hampton administrators routinely do to students.

Every recognized student club on campus to some extent attempts to "proselytize," that is, to persuade students to adopt a specific orientation or actions. This rule is vague so that it can be selectively enforced in the interests of the administration.

Moreover, the school's concern about the actions of our group speaks to a much deeper issue. The administration itself has long been guilty of attempts at cajoling and proselytizing black students with its strict assimilationist program. The most profound contradiction in Hampton's program is that it aims to make its black students ignorant of the racism which pervades our society, while fostering an elitist and individualist culture that works to the detriment of the Black community.

The accused students merely attempted to challenge the corporate bourgeois indoctrination prevalent at Hampton and to promote ideas more attuned to the interest of the community and humanity in general. It is only in the sickest sense that the promotion of human rights-related issues can be seen as an attempt to convert the students from one persuasion to another. The school makes no attempt to educate its black students on any of the issues, and seems to prefer cultivating political docility and sub ordinance instead.

The students also face charges of violating the guidelines set forth by the Administration on student demonstrations.

It has been our experience that the provisions which control student demonstrations as delineated in the Student Handbook effectively prevent any expression of dissent, and therefore any semblance of democracy. This is because any demonstration, march, vigil, or rally on campus must be called by an officially recognized student group and approved in advance by the Chief of Police and Director of Student Activities. Any student group that might call for such actions never gets recognized by the Administration in the first place.

Hampton University's administration has shown time and time again that it will not recognize, nor give any legitimacy to our organizations and our causes. We have repeatedly been denied access even to the Administration's own procedures through which groups are evaluated and then either recognized or denied recognition. Our applications have never been afforded the hearings and votes to which we are supposed to be entitled. The Administration, whenever it feels like, simply announces that "there is a moratorium" on new student organizations."

In refusing to acknowledge and recognize the groups that they suspect to be prone to protest and activism, the administration of Hampton, in effect, bans activism on campus. This is what has long been enforced at Hampton University. The violations outlined in the hearings summons were only technicalities, created by the arbitrary and repressive policies of the administration itself, which seek to deny any free and independent social and political expression by Hampton University students.

And now the administration has informed the accused students that they can be expelled for their offenses. More and more students at HU believe, however, that their school's disdain for democratic principles is unacceptable and must, at all costs, be resisted.

The administration was very clear in its opposition to our agenda from the very beginning. When we put up the posters and fliers across campus at night, they organized police teams during the day to march through the campus and snatch down every paper. But the corporate elitist ethos cultivated by Hampton still had to be counteracted, so we put up more…and more. The administrative response was always swift but never swift enough, each time more overtly repressive than before.

Meanwhile, students and other groups, whether officially recognized or not, routinely pass out unauthorized fliers and put up unauthorized advertisements on campus daily. The advertisements are usually promoting parties, bars and other venues for alcoholic consumption. The administration rarely interferes with this activity and never punishes those who engage in it.

But the activists at Hampton put up posters about a social justice-oriented student walk-out, and passed out information on the brutal, highly unpopular War in Iraq, and they alone are threatened with the penalties outlined in the student handbook. This selective enforcement of the rules reveals the true nature of the Hampton administration.

The Hampton Model as Apparatus of Exploitation
Some of the Hampton police who harassed us said that they just "had to do their job." Just for clarification, their bosses are the University President Dr. William R. Harvey, who is a Bush appointee to the Federal National Mortgage Association, and a Board of Trustees bounteous with Bush-Cheney campaign beneficiaries. A close friend of President Harvey especially relevant to this discussion is the commencement speaker he selected this past spring, Alphonso Jackson, Bush's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Jackson has made a priority of cutting back access by poor black people to subsidized Section 8 housing.

Shortly after hurricane Katrina, Jackson told the Houston Chronicle that most of the black population of New Orleans should not be allowed to return, and that New Orleans in the future will be a predominantly white city. The University president has often shown this same contempt for the Black community.

A recent example is when he was asked by a few members of our group at a Town Hall Meeting, the reason why the school did not have an aids awareness group. President Harvey responded that we probably did not need one because everyone knows about Aids. The girls did not accept that answer because they knew that AIDS disproportionately affected Blacks, and the Hampton Roads area was in the Top ten AIDS infected areas…therefore they started a campus AIDs group the next week.

Students at Hampton University have become accustomed to, although not content with, the school's restraint of free thought and expression. The issue has arisen publicly before with the Hampton school of journalism. In 2003, a student writer for the supposedly "student-run" campus newspaper, "The Hampton Script", wrote an article about the school cafeteria and its 100+ health code violations.

The administration wasn't particularly enthused about how the information would affect the school's image…so they seized all copies and destroyed them. They also basically purged the staff, attempted to expel the student writer, and created a task force to supervise the creative process of the newspaper. This task force, chaired by the University's Dean of Students who has no journalistic credentials, made several "recommendations" to the newspaper staff.

One worth mentioning here states that "Oversight and guidance from a faculty advisor (or advisors) with adequate journalistic knowledge and an appreciation and commitment to the Hampton Model are necessary." This model was used in the academic programs of other HBCUs. And while the faces and tactics have changed, the underlying principle is nonetheless the same.

Continued >>>

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