Unshackle NU invited Jackie Stevens, a Northwestern political science and legal studies professor who studies deportation law enforcement, to talk as part of its Immigration Detention Centers week. The event was meant to call attention to the imprisonment of undocumented people, how private prisons benefit from exploiting their labor and how the corporations Northwestern invests in are related to it.
Stevens began by explaining how us Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees are often paid one dollar a day for workdays of up to eight hours. She also said that us citizens are often detained and deported without due process, a U.S. government misconduct that Stevens challenged in 2011. She said that three lawsuits challenging the one dollar payday have emerged since the New York Times reported on it.
Stevens says that this one-dollar-a-day program is in violation of the 13th amendment, which exempts the prohibition of slavery in cases of criminal punishment. Since no one held by ICE is under criminal charges, Stevens said that paying them one dollar for a day of work is slave labor and is illegal.
Among many associated issues are disparities in data on immigration courts and proceedings and detention facilities, Stevens said.
As for Northwestern’s involvement, three of the University’s investors, G4S, Corrections Corporations of America and GEO, contribute to the private prison system. Absolving the University’s involvement with these corporations is Unshackle NU’s main goal.
Stevens said her interest in possible corruption at Northwestern was piqued when a student who had been sexually assaulted by a professor was sent to lawyers who “had a huge conflict with Northwestern.” She said some things then began “popping up” around the campus and Qatar, and she did some digging.
Wondering why we even had a campus in Doha, Stevens said she looked Northwestern up on WikiLeaks. She said she found out that the State Department in the 2000s was unhappy with Al Jazeera’s coverage of U.S. activities in the Middle East, particularly U.S. drone strikes. In an effort to change Al Jazeera’s coverage, they decided to bring in the Medill School of Journalism. Henry Bienen, Northwestern's president at the time, was a consultant for Boeing and used to work for the CIA.
Stevens read from the following paragraph from a Sept. 16, 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in Qatar to U.S. law enforcement agencies, found on WikiLeaks (USG refers to U.S. government):
“The USG has a strong interest in using Al Jazeera to reach its enormous Arabic-speaking audience. Our objective is three-fold: ensuring that U.S. officials appear on its broadcasts; increasing its professionalism; and mitigating its most egregious editorial practices. To this end, we need to fully coordinate public affairs efforts throughout the Region to engage Al Jazeera and refute its unsubstantiated claims through a rapid response unit. More polling data are needed to evaluate better whether our use of Al Jazeera and other Arabic-language media is having the desired impact. Hence, we need to increase our polling of Al Jazeera's audience. In the longer run, Northwestern University School of Journalism campus in Qatar can act as resource and help professionalize Al Jazeera's staff. We will devote time and resources to help Northwestern establish a strong and lasting working relationship with Al Jazeera.”
Stevens then rattled off a list of people and their positions:
The current CEO of General Dynamics (an aerospace and defense company affiliated with the Crown family - the 34th wealthiest family in the U.S.) is on the NU Board of Trustees.
The previous CEO and current General Dynamics director is on the NU life Board of Trustees.
William Osborn, chair of NU board of trustees (a top decision-maker at NU), directs and chairs the General Dynamics compensation committee and is also a director at Caterpillar and was formerly the chairman and CEO of Northern Trust Corporation (which allegedly holds NU funds).
Relatives of Henry Crown who took over General Dynamics are also on the NU board. James Crown, his grandson, is the current General Dynamics lead director.
“This is the thing that cracks me up when students go ‘oh, we’re trying to get Northwestern to divest,’” Stevens said. “They own us.”
Stevens also pointed out that Northwestern, unlike many other universities, has E-Verify, which is provided by General Dynamics. E-Verify prevents people who don’t have documentation from getting onto the payroll.
Stevens elaborated on several other questionable University practices she’d discovered, including suspicious. hiring practices.
“Where is our money going to? You know where it’s going to? A $150 million party house that rich people built for themselves in the name of honoring Henry Bienen,” Stevens said, referring to the new Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts.
Stevens said that public institutions are legally required to make records publicly available, but that there’s an exemption for nonprofits. She said she wants Northwestern students to ask representatives to the state assembly to remove that exemption.
“I’m very torn because I’m a supporter of liberating movements,” Weinberg junior Gus Berrizbeitia said. “But as Professor Stevens pointed out, they literally run Northwestern. There’s not anything we can do without a much more unified movement, which divestment aims to be, and I hope it gets there.”
Editor's note 2/3/16: This article was updated to clairfy the Crown family's affiliation with General Dynamics and the relation of James Crown. James is Henry Crown's grandson, not son.