Thursday, January 9, 2014

University presidents condemn NSA snooping, but wonder if they can borrow system for next capital campaign

The organization that represents the nation’s university presidents has come out with a strong condemnation of the National Security Agency’s domestic snooping program that taps millions of text, email and phone messages of ordinary US citizens. Meeting in Chicago, the League of US University Leaders issued a stinging criticism of NSA domestic snooping and a call for the technology behind it to be shared with their advancement teams for their next capital campaigns.

“This NSA snooping program is an outrage against our fundamental rights. The government has no right to monitor ordinary citizen’s emails, text messages and phone calls,” said League Chairman Desmond Snidely, President and Vice Chancellor of the University South-Western North Carolina University.

“We call on the government to stop this practice at once, right after they have allowed some of our more larger universities to borrow the system for a couple of key capital campaigns.”

News reports across the world have revealed that the NSA has a vast surveillance system of foreign nationals and US citizens. The majority of reports emanated from top secret documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Media stories suggest the NSA has the ability to track a person’s every communication – their web activities, text messages, emails and phone calls. They can also reportedly activate their mobile phone’s microphone and camera to listen and watch what people do. The League says that this is unnecessarily intrusive and goes against the US Constitution.

“The government doesn’t have the right to listen, watch or read everything you do online or with your mobile phone. They may be doing it in the name of the War or Terrorism, but what they are accomplishing is to tear down the rights and freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to create,” said Snidely. “Also, it’s not right that they don’t share this kind of thing because some US universities are about to start billion dollar fundraising campaigns.”

Snidely says US universities will be raising billions of dollars in fundraising in 2014 and desperately need a new way to reach alumni and donors. University capital campaigns have been growing in size in the last decade, but more and more of the donations are coming from fewer people. Alumni participation is also decreasing. While social media and mobile phones have opened up new opportunities to reach donors, says Snidely, it has also created significant barriers to reaching people who don’t want to be reached.

“This NSA snooping program is just plain wrong, plain and simple. If it were to be used at all, it should be used to help us find more donors to help keep our nation’s greatest asset – our universities – strong and vibrant.”

On the heels of the announcement by the university presidents, the Conference of US Hospital CEOs made a similar statement. Conference Chairman Dibble Brewer of the Vicksburg Hospital of Plano, Texas also added their voice to the worldwide condemnation of the NSA snooping program.

“We hospital leaders also call on the US government to stop this practice of snooping on millions of innocent Americans,” said Brewer in a statement. “But if they were to share it, it should be the nation’s hospitals who get first crack at it. We have pressing fundraising needs, more pressing than building a bunch of gyms at local universities.”