CUNY Struggle has obtained a memorandum of understanding “establishing a partnership program between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Baruch College for acquiring talent for the CIA’s diverse workforce.” This elaborate agreement puts Baruch’s staff, student body, student organizations, and even its academic programming in the service of CIA recruitment and its “diversity and inclusion brand.” Additionally the memorandum binds Baruch College to “frequent” assessments of the CIA’s “Return on Investment.” Due to the sensitivity of the situation we have agreed not to reproduce the document for the time being, but have verified its authenticity and have been allowed to quote from it freely. The agreement is dated August 21st, 2017, and is signed by Baruch president Mitchel B. Wallerstein and Glenn Gaffney, the CIA’s Associate Director for Talent.
“As part of CIA’s recruitment strategy,” the memorandum reads, “select universities are chosen to serve as a pilot for the Signature Schools Program (SSP). A broad range of recruitment activities will be conducted at select universities to build sustainable relationships with key university staff and personnel on campuses and to sustain contact with qualified and diverse applicant pools.” The recurring theme of “diversity” is crucial to this agreement. “Baruch College was evaluated based on CIA’s hiring requirements and selected based on the university’s accredited programs, the graduation rate of its students, the diversity of the student population, and CIA’s track record of onboarding quality talent from Baruch College.”
Under this agreement, the CIA will: “Conduct on-campus interviews; information sessions; workshops; simulations; and networking activities with student organizations, student honor societies, and campus chapters of diversity professional organizations such as, but not limited to, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, American Indian Science and Engineering Society and/or the Association of Latino Professionals for America.” Recruitment will be further supported by a “campus advertising campaign to communicate our diversity and inclusion brand.”
Additionally, the CIA will: “Facilitate unclassified discussions/presentations/seminars that discuss the business of intelligence and are aligned with university course content,” using Agency Resource Group (ARG) members and CIA agents as “Campus Ambassadors.” To ensure returns for its efforts, the CIA will: “Conduct frequent, constructive communications with the Baruch College [sic] regarding Return on Investment (ROI) for CIA of increased applicants and hires and ROI for Baruch College of increased career placement for graduates” the latter of course reflecting on Baruch’s coveted statistics.
For its part, Baruch College will: “Identify a primary focal point(s) for the program who understand CIA’s Signature School’s [sic] status and the wide range of curricula that corresponds to the diversity of occupations for which CIA hires, and provide contact information.” Additionally Baruch will: “Coordinate with CIA on all communications related to the program prior to its dissemination to the student body.”
CUNY’s vaunted “diversity” is the product of hard-won battles by radical students of color in the 1960s and 1970s who used militant direct action in violation of the law to open up CUNY to working class people of color. These gains have been defended by activists up through the present day, who have fought to make CUNY the site of struggle against the City’s racialized division of labor, not an institution that reinforces it. But in recent years representational “diversity” has become an asset to the capitalist state, which has come to favor race leadership over naked domination, especially as it has served to subsume aspects of the mass movement of the 1960s into a form friendly to business and social order. Simultaneously the US ruling class, with the full cooperation of the Democratic Party, has relied on representation of high-achieving, exceptional individuals in order to give a “post-racial” gloss to the persistent inequalities of income, wealth, and social power in American society, which have in many respects worsened since the 1970s. The polished appearance of “post-racial” America, fueled by the highly publicized advancement of a small subset among marginalized groups, contrasts sharply with the reality of how our society is actually organized. In the wake of the Ferguson rebellion these two images have increasingly come into conflict.
Absent any meaningful program for the eradication of widespread racial disparities in wealth, housing, employment, freedom from police harassment and murder, and countless other features of a society organized along racial lines, “diversity” has benefited a fortunate few while otherwise standing as a callous neoliberal brand identity. It has spawned an entire industry of business-friendly race experts and corporate sensitivity trainers eager to “unpack” and hyper-analyze individual ideological expressions of white supremacy, while leaving the material foundation of racism, the racial division of labor on which our capitalist society stands, almost completely unchallenged. And CUNY, perennially repressing, penalizing, and attempting to altogether prohibit any inklings of the kind of student movement that made CUNY “diverse,” now uses its diverse racial composition as part of a public relations strategy. Meanwhile CUNY, through a number of specialized programs, helps diversify the repressive wing of the state, providing police, prison guards, and other buttresses of mass incarceration and the white supremacist social order, culled from the ranks of low-income communities of color, as a more effective means of social management. And who better to add to this rogues gallery than the CIA?
Since its founding in 1947 the CIA has distinguished itself as the sworn enemy of social movements among oppressed people, especially in the developing world. The agency’s documented trail of murder, torture, dispossession, and violation of human rights is surely only the tip of the iceberg. The CIA’s recent role in torture of detainees in US custody — which has reappeared in the news thanks to another of its “diversity” milestones, the appointment of a female director — is only the latest in a despicable history of opposing human freedom and dignity with a ruthlessness matched only by sheer contempt for accountability of any kind. The CIA is now enlisting Baruch’s diverse student population in order to better staff its bumbling and bloody imperialist misadventures. And who knows what they’re up to on US soil?
If the CIA decides to used their unqualified access to CUNY’s student body to monitor American civilians, they will be following the precedent of the NYPD, who brazenly spied on Muslim students at Brooklyn College in explicit violation of the NYPD’s own memorandum of understanding with CUNY, which bars cops from CUNY campuses unless explicitly called. This memorandum is regularly broken, with no consequences for the NYPD.
The Baruch-CIA affair is CUNY’s latest showing of contempt for the radical tradition that made its “diversity” possible, as all the while it commodifies this legacy in the shiny packaging of law and order neoliberalism. But CUNY students and workers aren’t going to take this sitting down. Just yesterday our comrades in the City College Young Democratic Socialists staged a walkout arguing that “a gun debate, or any discussion about violence for that matter, that fails to address the effects of militarism and policing on our campuses cannot be effective,” and demanding “our schools detach themselves from institutions that are inherently violent and militaristic, as are the NYPD and the U.S. Army.” We could not agree more, and to this list we now add the murderous and despicable Central Intelligence Agency.
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