Two hundred and one members of the Tufts community, including 39 faculty and staff members, 111 students, 47 alumni and four community members, signed a letter addressed to University President Anthony Monaco, outgoing Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris, Dean of Arts and Sciences James Glaser and Director of Public and Environmental Safety (DPES) Kevin Maguire that expressed their concern over Maguire’s recent trip to Israel for a National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) training. Associate Professor of Anthropology Amahl Bishara drafted the letter, circulated it, garnered signatures and sent it in an email on Friday. This Wednesday afternoon, March 7, the Tufts administration responded with a letter to Bishara signed by Monaco, Harris and Executive Vice President Patricia L. Campbell to address the concerns voiced in the letter.
The original letter sent to the administration made three requests: that Harris, Maguire, Chief Diversity Officer Amy Freeman and Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon meet with members of the Tufts community to address concerns about the training and discuss improving transparency between the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) and the Tufts community; that Tufts admissions actively recruit Palestinian and refugee students in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon; and that Tufts support its undocumented and DACA students and employees, as well as employees with Temporary Protective Status.
After learning of Maguire’s NCTS training, Bishara began writing the letter, showing it to several colleagues and students to suggest revisions. The letter began circulating by email to gain signatures around the week of Feb. 14, according to Bishara.
Bishara said the letter arose as a community-wide response to the trainings.
“I think a lot of people were upset when they learned about this visit,” Bishara said. “And we thought about, you know, what can we do? And I think there’s a sense that there needs to be more than one way of responding, and the way that I felt that I could pitch in best was by writing this letter.”
According to Bishara, the letter aims to criticize Maguire’s trip to Israel and provide suggestions on how to increase a sense of security on campus. The letter cites a Tufts Daily article about DACA students’ experiences and a Tufts Observer about the policing of people with marginalized identities on campus, published last December and September, respectively, and states that pressing security issues on campus include anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric, as well as increased policing of students of color.
“What I wanted to think about was how to rebuild a sense of safety and security on campus, and also how to orient priorities around things that we know are big concerns,” Bishara said.
Bishara stated that for many people on campus and for herself, the knowledge that Maguire attended the NCTS training in Israel made them feel less safe on campus.
“You know, people who are Arab, people of color, are profiled by Israeli security police regularly, and so the sense that our police force has been trained by them, or that at least a leader of our police force has been trained by them, does not make me feel more secure. It makes me feel less secure,” she explained.
The letter states that training under Israel’s model would contribute to the militarization of police forces like TUPD.
“Adoption of Israeli approaches to security would endanger our students, staff, and faculty,” it states. “At a moment when U.S. police forces have come under scrutiny for brutality and discrimination against minority communities of many kinds, it is not the time for Tufts Police to be taught by institutions like these that routinely disregard civil and human rights.”
The letter also criticizes the priorities of DPES, stating that the signers have little reason to believe that terrorism is a pressing threat to the Tufts campus.
When asked if she knew of an incident where TUPD or the administration approached faculty about a necessity for counterterrorism training, Bishara responded that to her knowledge, such an incident has not occurred.
The response letter signed by administration members addresses this part of the original letter.
“Terror attacks in cities throughout the U.S., including Boston, and on college campuses have demonstrated the need for local and university police departments to prepare for potential terror attacks, to know how to prevent and respond to them, and to learn to work effectively and seamlessly with local, regional, and national authorities,” the letter states.
The response letter cites a May 2016 bomb threat to the Medford/Somerville campus, as well as other crises in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, as reasons to engage in counterterrorism training.
The response letter defends Maguire’s trip to the NCTS training and listed the other New England agencies that attended the training, including the United States Secret Service and the United States Department of Homeland Security, New England.
“The seminar was a valuable source of information that will enhance the university’s readiness to address emergency situations,” it says.
The letter also responds to concerns over the status of DACA students at Tufts, citing statements from Monaco in November 2016 and September 2017 that promise to protect and provide legal services to students with DACA status. In response to worries voiced in the original letter about how staff should respond to demands about a student’s immigration status, the letter from the administration references a new protocol instructing university faculty on how to respond to these requests.
“We have very clearly stated that the university will not provide information about our students or assist in the enforcement of immigration laws except as mandated by a subpoena, warrant, or court order. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement investigations that involve serious criminal activity or threats to public safety or security,” the response explained.
The administration’s response did not address the request to commit to recruiting Palestinian and refugee students.
“We can assure you that we are committed to continuing to make Tufts a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment for all members of our community. We look forward to constructive conversation with you on these and other issues,” the response letter concludes.
According to Bishara, the original letter to the administration is still open for new signatures.