The repressiveness of the Bush Administration is all over American college campuses. And it's not only in the demand to reinstall U.S. military recruitment with the so-called Solomon Amendment, which requires military recruitment be allowed or schools risk losing federal funds. It's also in Republican-funded college and university administrations that employ any means necessary—intimidation and/or physical force—to have a dissent-free campus.
Seven students at Hampton University in Virginia, one of the nation's historically Black colleges, faced expulsion on Dec. 2 for a crime these days viewed as either treason or sedition against the government.
Leafleting what the university depicts as 'unauthorized' literature about the Bush
Administration's racist polices regarding homophobia, AIDS, Hurricane Katrina, genocide in Sudan, and the Iraq war as part of a November protest initiated by The World Can't Wait—Drive Out Bush Regime ( worldcantwait.org ) , the 'Hampton Seven' were issued summonses for a hearing with no time to contact either their parents or their lawyers.
For weeks leading up to the protest that involved more than 200 universities and colleges nationwide, the Hampton Seven were followed by campus police, targeted by video surveillance, and forced to turn over their IDs.
But the harassment didn't just center on the Hampton Seven.
'The HU police booked several people just because they were wearing stickers and other paraphernalia because they looked suspicious. The police used hand-help camcorders to record the faces of the activists without permission. They attempted to intimidate the student onlookers by their random targeting,' wrote two of the Hampton Seven—John Robinson, and Brandon King, both senior sociology majors—in 'Corporate Plantation: Political Repression and the Hampton Model.'
Once apprehended, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of signatures from around the country defending the students—including from such notables as Howard Zinn, Cindy Sheehan, Gore Vidal, Bill T. Jones and Alice Walker—reached the dean's office.
Attempting to prevent the story from leaking out, campus police shut down all interviews being filmed by the local media.
Hampton's code of conduct reportedly allows peaceful, non-violent protest, but with one caveat—administration approval.
'Therein lies the problem. If they are going to practice their freedom of speech, they have to have permission,' Hampton student Aaron Williams told a local reporter.
However, many students at Hampton say it's not that the flyers were 'unauthorized'—because many of them were. The problem was the anti-Bush content in the flyers.
'I just want people to know that this is not solely about us being exonerated. Even if they let us off the hook, conditions on campus will be even worse. ... There is a lot of connection here, it is more severe and ridiculous at our campus, but repression is going on across the U.S.,' John Robinson told Sunsara Taylor, co-initiator of The World Can't Wait.
Behind the Hampton Seven's protest is a window into a more insidious problem that is unrelenting, pervasive and has metastasized into a community of African-American students—Bush's Republicanism and the way it cultivates a political docility and elitist assimilationist indoctrination.
Dr. William R. Harvey, an African American, is president of Hampton University. He is also a Bush appointee to the Federal National Mortgage Association and a benefactor to Bush-Cheney coffers. Hampton's June 2005 commencement speaker, whom Harvey selected, was his crony Alphonso Jackson, Bush's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Jackson has deliberately cut back access for poor African Americans to subsidized Section 8 Housing and has unabashedly boasted to the Houston Chronicle that New Orleans should not allow most of its displaced denizens back because they were parasitic to the economy, and the future of New Orleans, in order for it to survive, must shift from being predominately Black to predominately white.
With just days removed from World AIDS Day—with more reports of how the pandemic continues to grow and ravage communities of African descent—students had to fight vigorously for an AIDS Awareness group on campus. Why? Agreeing along with Bush's policy of abstinence-only, 'President Harvey responded that we probably did not need one because everyone knows about AIDS,' Johnson wrote.
The city of Hampton, Va., however, is one of the top 10 AIDS-infected areas in the country, and Black college campuses on the whole have a disproportionate number of students with HIV/AIDS.
And homophobia contributes to the problem on campus. However, homophobia on Hampton's campus is so virulent that I couldn't find any current students to talk openly about homophobia or HIV/AIDS without fear of reprisal.
But an alumnus of the class of 1976, Dr. Thea James, an emergency medicine physician at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, talked about her days at Hampton. 'It was very repressive and run like a police state, and I and everyone else had to toe the line. I wasn't out then because I feared being thrown out of the pre-med program. Today I imagine the same thing. I never got involved with campus political activism because there wasn't any. I am proud of these recent Hampton students.'
As it turns out, Hampton University did not expel the Hampton Seven. But the University released a statement downplaying the issue: 'The matter was simply an issue of compliance with University polices and procedures. The University certainly permits peaceful protest; however all polices and procedures must be adhered to by students as stated in the Hampton University official Student Handbook.'
And therein lies the problem.