Ain’t No Skin and Bones

Are my academic experiences just totally idiosyncratic or does shit like this happen to anyone else?

I’m walking back from class into the building that houses my office. Through the glass of the front door, I see some students–three young women–walking toward me. So like the gentleman that I am, I open the door for them, and the first two file through, thanking me in turn. The third, whom I don’t know and have never met, thanks me as well, then conspicuously looks me up and down and says: “Wow, you have lost some serious weight! You look good! Keep it up!” Then insouciantly walks away.

What do you do with fulsome flattery when it’s transparently false? (I haven’t lost a pound in months.) Do you accept it and hope that others are deceived by it as well? Or do you suspect that you’re subtly being made fun of? Or do you just walk away in bemused consternation and wait for the next thing?

School’s Out Forever

Classic moments in academic life: I go to the local YMCA last night to do a workout. The young woman at the check-in desk looks vaguely familiar. I’m pretty sure she’s a former Felician student of mine, but can’t quite remember her name. I check in without mentioning this fact, and she checks me in without mentioning it, either–but we both do double-takes indicating (vague) mutual recognition.

I do my workout, and finally decide that I can’t leave the Y without somehow alluding to the Felician connection we have in common. So I leave by way of the entrance where she was sitting, and it turns out that she’s still there. “You were a student of mine at Felician,” I say by way of re-introduction, “but I’m sorry I don’t remember your name.” She smiles, gives her name, and without irony or self-consciousness says, “Yeah, I was a student at Felician, and I had something with you.” Continue reading

#SaveBasit: From Deportation to Death Sentence

A moral disaster in the making. Please share and consider signing the petition and/or making some other sort of contribution.

Students have launched an urgent campaign to save their teacher who faces the death penalty in Egypt following what human rights groups say was a sham trial to punish him for political activism. His asylum application was just denied and he was put in immigration detention two weeks ago. 

Backgrounder from northjersey.com. Backgrounder from HuffPost. From Carbonated.TV. Editorial from the Newark Star-Ledger. From Jersey City Patch.

Change.org petition, signed by PoT’s own David Riesbeck and yours truly.

I’d like to think that the prospect of an actual death sentence will get as much coverage as the hypothetical hanging that got Kevin Williamson fired from The Atlantic. But I somehow doubt it. These deportation cases have all become a dime a dozenContinue reading

Documenting a Police Detention (2): The Long and Short of It

All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place. –George Orwell, 1984

As readers of this blog know, on November 29, 2017, I was detained and interrogated for several hours by members of the Lodi Police Department and Bergen County Prosecutors Office on suspicion of being an “active shooter.” Though I was not formally charged with a crime, my detention was arguably tantamount to a full arrest: I was involuntarily transported from the original place of detention to a nearby police station, involuntarily held there for a few hours, and involuntarily questioned, despite repeated invocations of my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Eventually, I was released without further incident.

A few weeks ago, I sent Open Public Records Act requests to both agencies for documentation of my detention. The Lodi Police Department responded to my request with a 21 page document. The Bergen County Prosecutors Office responded with a one page letter. Both sets of documents are instructive, both for what they say and for what they omit.  Continue reading

Disruptions on Campus: There’s Always an Excuse for Israel

A passage from a blog post by Steve Horwitz at BHL:

Here are a few thoughts for college libertarians who are able to invite speakers to campus and how they might do so in the most productive ways.

Let me start by saying that the sort of interruptions we’ve seen this week with Yaron Brook and Christina Hoff Sommers are utterly unacceptable. Those who disrupt planned presentations with official permission to use space and students expecting a talk should be forcibly removed from the room and subject to the relevant disciplinary consequences. There should be no negotiating with anti-intellectual terrorists. They should feel free to ask questions when the time comes or protest outside the building in ways that do not prevent those who wish to attend from attending. No excuses.

A question for Horwitz et al: what if “those who disrupt planned presentations with official permission to use space” on campus call themselves “the Israel Defense Forces” (IDF) and are sent by something that calls itself the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria? Should they be “forcibly removed”? Forcibly removing them is what a policy of “no excuses” would really entail. Continue reading

Questions about the Parkland Shooting (3): What If the Educator is the Shooter?

As everybody by now knows, it’s been proposed that we arm teachers–and give them a “bit of a bonus” for standing guard. Less frequently asked question: what if the educator is the shooter?

Yes, the armed teachers are going to be “vetted.” But immigrants are extensively vetted, and we’re deathly afraid of them. If we can’t vet immigrants so as to distinguish the peaceful ones from the budding terrorists, why assume that we can vet teachers so as to distinguish the “good guys” from the would-be “active shooters”? (Never mind the complications if the educator is an immigrant…) Does it take so much of a leap of imagination to imagine a disgruntled teacher or professor using his service weapon to wipe out a classroom of students? If it does, it shouldn’t.  Continue reading

We Contain Multitudes (or: “Give Us Your Wretched”)

I got two or three memos in my inbox today, depending on how you count them.

Memos 1 and 2 came from the Office of Mission Integration and Campus Ministry, with the request that we encourage our students to participate in their upcoming events, expressing support for illegal immigrants currently detained and awaiting deportation:

Sr. Antonelle Chunka will be in the Cafeteria in Obal Hall on Monday, February 12 at 1 pm, to discuss the ministry to immigrants in the Elizabeth, NJ detention center. Sister was part of the John Paul II Lecture Panel on Undocumented Immigration we held here at Felician last Spring.

All are welcome.

THIS IS CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING IN ACTION!

February 14: Join Campus Ministry and First Friends of New Jersey as we hold vigil outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in solidarity for those being detained due to their immigration status.

We will gather at the Rutherford Campus, first floor of Education Commons building at 4:45 pm and leave campus by 5:00 pm. Vigil begins outside the Elizabeth Detention Center at 6:00 pm.

Memo 3 came from the Dean of Students, with the request that we encourage our students to participate in an upcoming webinar on the many career paths available to officers in federal law enforcement, notably careers involving the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants:

Continue reading

Nervous Shakedown: Scenes from a Police Detention (1)

On the morning of November 29, 2017, I taught my 8:15 am ethics class in Kirby Hall at Felician University’s Lodi campus. Having taught class, I returned to my third-floor office in Kirby around 9:30. At a little after 10 am, I received a call from Dr. Edward Ogle, the University’s Vice President for Academic Affairs (hereafter, “VPAA”). The VPAA asked me to come to his office immediately, as something “urgent” had come up, offering no further elaboration. I told him I was on my way. I put on my coat and took my wallet, leaving my phone in my desk. As I left the building, I was met by the VPAA in the company of two uniformed officers of the Lodi Police Department. The VPAA asked me to accompany him to his office in the company of the officers, and I did.

On reaching his office, we encountered a third uniformed officer, apparently a sergeant, who said: “You’re not under arrest, but you’re being held.” He then read me my rights. I remember his mentioning my right to remain silent, but don’t remember whether he informed me of a right to have an attorney present. He then asked whether I understood my rights. I said I did. He asked me whether I was willing to discuss the matter at hand. “No,” I said. “Well,” he said, “that makes things easier,” walking into a nearby hallway to make a phone call. I heard only one sentence from the sergeant’s end of the call: “Nothing. He hasn’t said anything.” Which was true enough, and stayed that way all afternoon. Continue reading

One Little Victory

Most of the news we’ve recently been hearing about immigration in the United States has been bad, but every now and then a bit of good news emerges. Here’s an instance of the latter.

About a year ago, a journalist told me the story of a young Pakistani immigrant in a terrible situation, asking me to write a letter of support that might help her get out of it. I contacted the person in question, heard her out, sat down to write her a letter of support, and sent it off to her lawyer. A few weeks ago, the woman told me that her application to remain in the United States had been accepted, and the orders to deport her had been lifted. With her permission, I’ve reproduced the letter I wrote for her, one of several she used to make her case to the immigration authorities. In the interests of privacy, I’ve changed her name. 

As I see it, the case demonstrates the complexity (or alternatively, the vacuity) of the idea of “following the law” in immigration cases. Absent a substantive, non-positivist conception of justice, the prescription to “follow the law” is as consistent with deporting an immigrant as it is with allowing her to stay. Introduce a substantive conception of justice, and you introduce the considerations that give the law meaning, while giving legal decisions their point. Justice obviously demanded allowing Sarah Ibrahim to stay in the United States, and thankfully, the law allowed it as well. So it appears that she’ll stay. I’m happy to have made a small contribution to the outcome.  Continue reading

A Memo to Friends and Colleagues

I wanted to take a moment to thank the many friends and colleagues, especially those at Felician University, who have expressed their support for me following my police detention of Wednesday, November 29th. I deeply appreciate the support you’ve sent my way. Indeed, my gratitude extends to the many jokes–some of them pretty funny–that have been made at my expense, my personal favorite being someone’s description of my detention as “something out a sitcom co-written by Michel Foucault and Flavor Flav.”

My brother’s idea of “moral support”

For now, suffice it to say that I was involuntarily detained on that date for several hours by the Lodi Police Department and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, involuntarily transported to the Lodi police station, held and questioned there, and asked to give consent to search my car and “premises.” Continue reading