Furious students and faculty members at the Borough of Manhattan Community College are demanding that the school abandon plans for a certificate program on security management. They view it as an endorsement of the Bush administration's Department of Homeland Security.
Like hundreds of other community colleges across the nation since the September 11 attacks, the two-year CUNY school in Lower Manhattan is hoping to take advantage of the surging demand for security training. The school's faculty proposed a program in May that would teach students about threats to homeland security and how to counter them.
At a school where the student government headquarters is decorated with a poster of a tortured Abu Ghraib prisoner and another that calls President Bush a "madman," some students and faculty members have reacted to the proposed program with intense suspicion.
While those who proposed the program argue that it will offer BMCC students sought-after skills to help them find jobs in the security industry, critics say the program is an oppressive outgrowth of the Department of Homeland Security.
At a meeting Wednesday of the faculty council, tempers flared, according to those who were present, as faculty members shouted questions at the designer of the proposed program, Elinor Garely, a professor in the business management department.
The student government is handing out a "fact sheet" on the program with the header: "Stop BMCC 'Homeland' Repression Program Now!"
"Faculty members point out that if BMCC becomes known as 'Homeland Security U,' this will intimidate and drive away many present and potential students, especially immigrants," the leaflet states.
The president of the student government at BMCC, Jason Negron, said the proposal is "a very scary issue that students are very, very against."
He said if the program were to be instituted, students would be exposed to "a lot of right-wing views" and about "a lot of things that other countries have done to America without giving the other side of the story." He said it was the "progressive" faculty members who voiced opposition to the proposal at Wednesday's meeting.
One of the courses proposed for the new certificate program, "Terrorism and Counterterrorism," provides an overview of guerilla warfare, hostage situations, and profiles of terrorists and their organizations.
Another course, "Homeland Security," would invite a representative from the New York State Office of Homeland Defense to speak to students and would cover such topics as "The new strategy to secure cyberspace, ""Analysis and discussion of safety and security concerns in high-rise buildings after 9/11," and "How to protect the organization from outside investigators."
The proposed curriculum also includes courses on "Travel, Tourism, and Hospital Security," "Crime Prevention through Environmental Design," "Legal and Ethical Issues in Security Management," and "Employment Trends in Security Management." The proposal anticipates first-year enrollment at 35 to 40 students.
It could take months before the college approves the certificate program. After the CUNY central administration reviews it, the proposal would be returned to the faculty for final approval.
The senior vice president for academic affairs at BMCC, Sadie Bragg, said the administration at the college has listened to the concerns of those who are objecting to the proposal. "Their concerns will be voiced," she said.
It appears the program has the support of the administration. BMCC's president, Antonio Perez, asked the department of business management to devise a security program, Ms. Garely said. Mr. Perez is a member of a task force that the American Association of Community Colleges recently established to help develop programs related to homeland security at community colleges across the country.
Mr. Perez did not return calls from The New York Sun yesterday for comment.
Ms. Garely said the objective of the program is not to promote the Department of Homeland Security but to train students in skills that are in high demand in the workplace.
"The need for safety-and-security education is part of every industry," she said.
"Whether you look at cruise ships, shopping malls, corporate headquarters, every bank, they all have security," she said.
Ms. Garely said the program is geared toward students who want entry-level security positions and to security employees who are seeking promotion. She said the 30-credit program could be transferred to fouryear degree programs offered at such schools as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, also part of the CUNY system.
According to her proposal, about half of the students at BMCC are employed, with an average income less than $15,000.
Ms. Garely said she was taken aback by the angry reaction to the proposal from faculty members, whom she encouraged to read the proposal.
"I think that the discussion and viewpoints are what an academic process is about," she said. "That's why we have colleges, so people can speak out."