Faculty urges repeal of detainee law

by Beacon Staff • November 8, 2006

The faculty's opposition to The Military Commisions Act.

Our view:

Students should further the discussion.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was signed into law last month, and before the ink from President Bush's pen dried, our country's notions of freedom were fundamentally altered for the worse.,At issue:

The faculty's opposition to The Military Commisions Act.

Our view:

Students should further the discussion.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was signed into law last month, and before the ink from President Bush's pen dried, our country's notions of freedom were fundamentally altered for the worse.

Under the law the president could imprison anyone indefinitely if he declares the person, rightly or wrongly, to be an illegal enemy combatant. The detainee has no means to challenge the detention, no lawyer and no rights and is locked in a military prison, where torture is legal and the Geneva Conventions do not apply.

The powers in the law are so sweeping that even American citizens can be held without basic constitutional rights.

It bears repeating: this is now legal in your own country.

Sadly, the reaction to the Act was all too quiet. Americans, it seems, have not quite grasped the scope of the law, which the American Civil Liberties Union calls "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history."

Frustrated by the law, the media's coverage and the public's collective yawn, Jerry Lanson, associate professor of journalism, decided to take action. He drafted a resolution urging the Emerson faculty assembly to unite in its opposition to this negligent law.

"Given that this law undermines the Constitution and that, in the hands of a truly malicious president, could put any American at risk, I propose that we as a faculty do our part to end the silence," wrote Lanson in an e-mail to the faculty assembly.

Not only did the faculty vote overwhelmingly to support the resolution by a 46-4 vote, but did so only after amending it with stronger language that included an urge for a repeal of the law.

Lanson's proposal is a welcome development and provides Emerson students and organizations a chance to elevate the debate on this issue. If so inclined, student organizations could take action by making similar declarations.

The SGA could be a vehicle for such efforts, if students showed enough interest.

"I am not a lobbyist or a politician-I just want to spark a conversation," said Lanson, who hopes to appeal to other colleges in his effort to encourage dialogue.

Some will surely argue that professors should not be in the business of preaching political opinions. But such views serve to thwart open dialogue rather than encourage it. Students deserve more credit than this, and arguments for censoring teachers should remain inside horrendous David Horowitz books, right where they belong.

It is unconscionable that the United States government has passed such blatantly unconstitutional legislation, and no American, regardless of ideology, should stand by while the Land of the Free becomes the Land of the Fearful.

Emerson, one of the country's great communication schools, prides itself on grooming leaders of the future.

But we needn't wait to be leaders. Our chance to make a difference is before us today.

Let us, the students of Emerson College stand with the faculty-one campus, unified, in the name of freedom.