The continuing protests against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Northeastern University gathered steam on Wednesday after one student and 10 activists were arrested by Boston police.
People were protesting in front of the home of the university president, Joseph E. Aoun, holding placards seeking his intervention to put an end to the the multimillion-dollar school contract with the ICE.
The university signed a $7.7 million research contract with the ICE to study Exploratory Methods Mapping (EMM). The demand gained momentum after immigrant children were separated from their families after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero tolerance policy for people entering the U.S. illegally in April this year. The move has drawn sharp criticism from different quarters across the country.
A petition is also making rounds on social media websites accusing the university of helping the ICE.
“The U.S. government is tearing families apart. Children have been kept in cages. There is more evidence every day that ICE is engaged in widespread human rights violations. And Northeastern University is helping them,” reads the petition started by Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.
The petition has received more than 2,100 signatures as of Thursday morning. It outlines fears that the data analysis techniques could be used to expand mass surveillance of immigrants and communities of color by the ICE.
Meanwhile, university’s vice president for communications Renata Nyul has junked the demands for scrapping the contract in a statement, terming it as a matter of academic freedom.
“Our commitment to academic freedom goes beyond protecting what professors say; it also means allowing faculty members to freely pursue research funding in their fields of expertise,” Nyul said.
“Efforts to restrict which federal agencies a faculty member can approach for research funding are antithetical to academic freedom. We hope everyone can agree to support freedom of academic inquiry—most importantly members of our own faculty,” she added.