MSA to host public stand against profiling
MSA hopes for campus to show solidarity in the public demonstration on College Green today
February 24, 2012, 12:38 am · Updated February 27, 2012, 12:33 am·
In a public demonstration outside of College Hall, students will raise awareness on the New York Police Department’s surveillance of the Muslim Students Association.
From noon to 1 p.m., students will stand in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue holing up manila folders that read “My NYPD File,” according to College junior Mak Hussain, president of Penn’s MSA. MSA is the main organizer of the demonstration.
“We would like to get from the community a solid show of support and solidarity,” said Hussain, who is speaking on behalf of his organization. “Additionally, we’d like to highlight how wrong profiling is on the basis of any part of who you are.”
MSA was disappointed with the University’s Feb. 22 response to reports of the NYPD monitoring MSAs across the country, including at Penn. They said the response was not strong enough and putting the MSA “at arm’s length.”
The statement did not use the word “Muslim,” according to Hussain.
The demonstration will feature community members stating facts about themselves. They will end with a tagline such as “and I’m Muslim too and that’s all the NYPD cares about” to make their point.
The MSA hopes their demonstration will garner more support among the Penn community.
“We really appreciate the support we’ve gotten so far, but we still continue to call upon the entire Penn community for support at this time,” Hussain said.
On Wednesday, Penn President Amy Gutmann made remarks on the issue at the University Council meeting.
“The idea that police would monitor students solely because of their religious beliefs or national origin is contrary to what we believe in at Penn. I know this has been especially painful for the members of our Muslim Student Association,” she said.
According to Vice President of University Communications Stephen MacCarthy, Penn found out about the monitoring about two weeks ago.
Yesterday, MSA met with top administrators to voice their concerns and seek support.
They discussed the safety of MSA members, the monitoring and surveillance, MSA’s reputation and the isolation of the Muslim community, according to Hussain.
Hikaru Kozuma, the executive director of the Office of Student Affairs, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush and Police Chief Mark Dorsey were confirmed to be at the meeting.
Hussain added that MacCarthy, Provost Vincent Price and Chaplain Chaz Howard were also in attendance.
“We discussed how to further support the MSA and Penn’s Muslim community,” Kozuma wrote an in email. He declined to comment on the specifics of the meeting.
Rush reassured MSA members that “the Division of Public Safety, and particularly the Penn Police Department, is here to assist them in all of their safety and security concerns,” she wrote in an email.
“We agreed to continue the dialogue so that we can work in partnership to create a feeling of well-being for all of the Muslim community at Penn,” she added.
Law enforcement agencies aren’t legally bound to notify the University police when they are officially on campus, according to Rush. However, federal, state and local law enforcement agents have customarily notified DPS either before visiting campus or before taking official action.
“I would say the administration did also recognize in a sense the fault with their initial statement,” Hussain said. “Perhaps they were initially defensive about it, but on the whole they explained their intent behind it and recognized how for us, it really didn’t do a good job.”
Student groups around campus are expressing solidarity for MSA’s campaign to raise awareness.
Penn Hillel released a statement signed by President College junior Alexander Jefferson, Executive Vice President Engineering junior Abigail Jablansky and External Vice President Engineering junior Jeremy Hurewitz.
“Given the recent findings of the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim students, we, as leaders of Hillel and Penn’s Jewish community, stand firmly in solidarity with our brethren,” the statement read.
“Let us use this experience and sad reality as an opportunity to raise awareness. Let all students on Penn’s campus and beyond increase education and dialogue with and about each other.”