Students Against Surveillance has begun a nationwide campaign against Internet spying by the National Security Agency (NSA). The campaign began on June 5, the one-year anniversary of the day the newspaper Guardian UK first published articles based on files released by Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, exposing massive NSA spying.
A “Global Letter” by the group states that “we came to university thinking that we could learn with confidence, without fear that what we are studying or learning could be used against us. Given what we now know about from Edward Snowden’s leaks, we no longer have that assurance. In an environment of mass surveillance speech and academic freedom are chilled. People are afraid to speak freely. This is not a healthy environment for learning. We, as members of the global academic community, protest. We are taking a stand against mass surveillance on our campus, and we want you to join us.”
The protest is underway on at least 16 campuses, including Stanford, Purdue, Mount Holyoke, Eastern Michigan, and the University of Oregon. It follows another campaign by academics against government spying and in defense of Edward Snowden. In January of this year, hundreds of professors across the world signed a declaration called “Academics Against Mass Surveillance.” It read, in part, “In sum: the world is under an unprecedented level of surveillance. This has to stop.”
Many students are especially concerned about the impact of massive surveillance on political activity and critical thought. An open letter by law students at the University of Oregon said government spying “impairs our collective ability to imagine and organize.” A similar letter from undergraduates at New York University brought out some of the political focus and targeting of massive government surveillance: “What’s more, our Muslim and Arab peers are being targeted. In February 2012, the AP reported that the NYPD was monitoring students at NYU, Columbia, and Yale.”
Students launching these initiatives are fighting for university and college campuses to be places where critical thought is encouraged, not chilled and monitored; where dissenting ideas and inquiries are valued and studied for their merit, not dismissed and attacked because they are outside government-established norms; where people can lead their lives and conduct their personal, political, social, and academic activities without being under a constant government watch. They must be supported and their efforts learned from and spread.
This article originally appeared on revcom.us.