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On American College Campuses
by Sudhama Ranganathan Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2011 at 4:02 PM

There are many reasons for security within the world we live. For those reasons it is prudent to maintain alertness in the appropriate areas. We need people on the ground where there is need of the presence of law enforcement or security. We need the ability to observe appropriately places we have reason to believe are at risk of becoming targets of attack or places crimes in general could be committed. Any credible government needs the ability to make people aware of impending threats when necessary. Any stable civilization needs the ability to reasonably protect itself and keep itself orderly and free from crime.

On American College ...
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We should be no exception. There are many reasons to have protection and order it's a sane choice in a world that is not always sane. Sometimes there are cameras where we may not want them. There are times when that makes sense and there are times it's intrusive. That's for us to decide and elect leaders who will vote accordingly.

We need law enforcement agencies at all levels including the local, state and federal. Crimes are committed every day. They are different and unique and require different methods of prevention, enforcement and investigation. It is unwise not to take practical steps to secure oneself and having proper law enforcement is merely an extension of that premise. There are lines and there should be an awareness of the boundaries between the respect for people's privacy and the need to maintain law and order.

Most of those lines in a free society would seem easy to see. Where they aren't the constitution or governing ethos of that specific society guides them as does ours giving us a framework within which to work. When government agencies step outside these lines it is our responsibility as free citizens to check them through elected representatives supposed to be our voices there to protect our liberties.

Without protective elements in society in place the fabric of any strong civilization will unravel into lawlessness and chaos. With no enforcement of the laws they will be meaningless and those laws enacted to protect a community's innocent will be run over roughshod. As crimes becomes more complex and citizens have greater rights, those rights will need more laws to protect them. The more laws we have the more we will need investigative bodies to make sure justice gets served.

But what happens when those tasked with enforcing the laws and doing intelligence work begin to break the laws and disrupt the order they are meant to uphold? For example, when I was in college I found myself made aware of undercover law enforcement presence on my campus, aside from campus police. Now that in and of itself was not so strange as it was just two years since the attacks on 9/11.

It was a huge state school with a high profile athletics program and a wide array of majors from many different disciplines. There was a diverse range of sensitive research happening. It made perfect sense to have a few extra people in place and still does.

But what I saw was different. I didn't just discover they were on campus, I learned they were specifically observing me, probably among others. See, I was matriculated as a student in major with a very limited amount of students admitted per year. I found that there were many more than just one undercover law enforcement personnel in graduating class of my degree program, and, though I was no threat at all, it was all eyes on me and then some as far as they were concerned.

Anyone that knew me would have known I was removed from political activity and pretty much your average person. Anyone that had been observing me previous to my going to school would have known that. Anyone observing me while I was at school would have known that. Surely there were better uses of undercover law enforcement. Wasn't there this group named Al Qaeda or something?

Of course it was not the fact I was being observed that bothered me. In and of itself observation, especially that I was unaware of, wouldn't have bothered me a bit. It was the fact law enforcement officers were actively engaging in harassment and their target was me. However, as they were undercover, they were doing this posed as students and it was supposed to be kept under wraps, and those that were not law enforcement, but were cognizant of what was happening were supposed to keep their mouths shut. If not they were threatened with harassment, grades dropping and worse.

It was not small time harassment or petty everyday insults or a few levels above that all, we are talking specific planned examples of harassment meant to get me to quit, flunk or get kicked out of the program or the school. There were specific times when my grades and overall grade point average was meant to be interrupted and interfered with as a result of the harassment. Illegal activity for sure.

They were doing this because they thought I was a threat to security as thirteen years prior I had participated in a violent anti-Apartheid protest. Yet since that time I had cut all political ties and lived an essentially innocuous hum drum peaceful life. To have observed me if they felt necessary would be one thing, to investigate my goings on behind the scenes the same, and I have no problems with either. I had nothing to hide. They could have even said I simply could not attend the school. But to harass me is another thing entirely.

If they thought I was a dangerous individual why try to stress me out so bad that I'm driven to snap? What would be the point? Would that be a secure situation for the students at the school around me? Luckily I was no more unstable than I was a threat, but I could have been.

People reading this may wonder how I found out and that it sounds a bit paranoid and conspiracy theory-ish. Perhaps it sounds as though I was jumping to conclusions. I would agree were it not for how I discovered what I had. I found out because one of the undercover law enforcement personnel posing as students ended up admitting to me he was law enforcement and had been undercover on campus for eight years.

He pointed out one student and then others within the program. I suppose he felt by bringing me in I would feel a part of something, placated, flattered or not sue or complain as I had been thinking of doing. He was wrong.

Since that time I have wondered about what they were doing exactly. I mean in the larger sense, what was the point? Moreover, what else have they been doing on college campuses in the same way to unsuspecting members of the student body of this and/or that college? These experiments, which is really the only way I can describe it, were dangerous, out of control and obviously fallible as I graduated, and, unlike the undercover student's pronouncement I overheard that I would not sue or any such thing, I did initially pursue a lawsuit to resolve the matter and I still write about the experience and have no plans to cut back or stop. The very opposite of what they planned for happened.

What comes out of such behavior in terms of benefits to law enforcement or to the up keep the peace, and why carry out such dangerous, intrusive and oppressive behavior on college campuses to students? Is it because institutions of higher education are places where they have access to people still learning about the world, in a closed off environment and out of the way of supervision? I mean wouldn't any parent think this would be like having parents watching them on campus; that this is the adult supervision? If you can't trust the cops, who can you trust right? What would we call parents or people in positions of supervision if they acted the way they did towards me putting all those around me in jeopardy and really to a good extent failing in terms of their goals – using tax dollars to do so no less?

It isn't even a secret anymore. In the end it was really only dumb luck I was not unstable or a ticking time bomb as far as my internal constitution, psychologically, etc. How fair was taking that risk in the midst of all those on campus? Did they even care – do they now? What happens on college campuses today where that is happening when there are such instances of people being harassed? If you are a college student how can you be assured it is not occurring on your campus? Has it ever happened to someone that was unstable and they snapped? What happened then?

Should that really be happening on college campuses in America? Do parents feel secure with it? Something to think about as election season approaches.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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