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Monday, March 13, 2006

Academic freedom, 2006

In the Soviet Union, dissidents used to fear a knock on the door in the middle of the night. It meant the forcible removal from home and family.

It can't happen here, right?

Baby steps.

LA Times, March 11, 2006:
A Pomona College professor of Latin American history said Friday that he was questioned about his Venezuela connections by two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies working for a federal task force and called the quizzing an intrusion on his academic freedom.

...Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas said the deputies entered his office without an appointment Tuesday during hours normally set aside for student conferences. He said the deputies were there for about 25 minutes and asked him about the Venezuelan community and his relationship with it.
According to Professor Tinker-Salas, the agents also questioned students waiting outside his office.

And the official rationale?
Sheriff Lee Baca said Friday that his deputies were doing nothing more than gathering information on the political situation in Venezuela for a federal anti-terrorism task force coordinated by the FBI. But he said he would discourage workplace interviews in the future, especially with members of academia.
Last month, Tinker-Salas was quoted in Christian Science Monitor, speculating about Iranian-Venezuelan relations.

Both states seek a multipolar world with greater checks on US power.

Pomona College officials aren't happy about the surprise visit:
Pomona College President David Oxtoby said Friday that he was "extremely concerned about the chilling effect this kind of intrusive government interest could have on free scholarly and political discourse. I am also concerned about the negative message it sends to students who are considering the pursuit of important areas of international study, in which they may now feel exposed to unwarranted official scrutiny."

Oxtoby said the school, in Claremont, was consulting with legal advisors about the strongest way to protest Tinker-Salas' questioning.
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