Universities should be strongholds of open communication, where the free flow of information is encouraged. The ability of students to learn and grow is severely hampered when governments monitor our communications and social media activity. Students Against Surveillance is a new project encouraging students and faculty to protest mass surveillance — raise your voice and tell the government that you won’t stand for this. Sign your name to Stanford’s open letter.
We, the members of the Stanford University community, stand together in protest of mass government surveillance and in support of digital rights, free speech, and academic freedom on campus. In light of the Edward Snowden leaks, we now know that the NSA has an unprecedentedability to monitor and record our online and cell phone communications, creating a virtual map of our day-to-day activities. We contend that this is a violation of our civil liberties and constitutional rights, and runs contrary to the core principles of discovery, learning, and engagement for which Stanford University stands.
Since our country’s inception, Americans have fought and sacrificed to ensure our basic civil liberties and freedoms, such as free speech and privacy. Universities in particular have long been bastions for freedom of thought, learning, communication, and innovation. Stanford’s motto, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht,” is German for “The winds of freedom blow”. But recently that freedom has come under threat. Mass warrantless surveillance by the NSA has restricted our ability to freely think, act, research, innovate, and share ideas in a multitude of ways:
- NSA surveillance specifically targets foreign nationals, regardless of whether they have actually done anything wrong. During this 2013-14 school year, international students comprised 8 percent of Stanford’s undergraduate population and 33 percent of our graduate population. NSA surveillance creates an atmosphere of fear which discourages free speech and expression among such students.
- According to the NSA’s “three hops” approach, anyone who associates with foreign students or scholars is also subject to surveillance. This stifles the open exchange of ideas between colleagues and discourages research on controversial topics.
- The NSA’s monitoring and recording of emails and social media activity dangerously compromises our ability and willingness to collectively organize and engage in political discourse.
Mass surveillance and data collection by the NSA is carried out under the pretext of preventing terrorism, yet a 2013 study by the President’s Review Group found that this system is ineffective and easily abused. Not only does this practice violate our First and Fourth amendment rights and basic civil liberties, it contradicts the very values and goals upon which our university was founded. As such, we call upon all Stanford students, faculty, and staff to stand together in protest against digital surveillance on our campus by co-signing this letter. We also call upon President John Hennessy and our administrative leaders to devise sensible policies to minimize on-campus surveillance and promote a free and open atmosphere in which we can all think, learn, and speak without fear.
With hope and respect,
Devon Kristine Zuegel, Class of ‘16
Join the Student Net Alliance and sign this open letter before June 5 2014, the anniversary of the Edward Snowden leaks.