Last year, students and faculty at UNC-Charlotte called for the removal of John Bogdan from his position as the university’s associate vice chancellor for safety and security. Supporters of the effort cited Bogdan’s tenure as brigade commander at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, accusing him of violating detainees’ human rights.
The movement hasn’t stopped even though it's a new academic year. On June 10, UNC-C’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors — an organization for all faculty, graduate students, librarians and academic professionals — issued a statement to the incoming and outgoing chancellors, vice chancellor for business affairs and the general counsel and vice chancellor of institutional integrity with five recommendations.
The recommendations to the university were as follows:
- Immediately dismissing Bogdan from his role.
- Retracting and disavowing the Chancellor’s “Fact Set” — which defended UNC-C’s hiring process as well as Bogdan’s record at Guantanamo.
- Banning the use of the contracted Buffkin/Baker firm in the hiring process.
- Increasing faculty input in upper-administrative hires.
- Establishing a council partially composed of students to evaluate on-campus policing practices.
John Cox, the president of UNC-C’s chapter of the AAUP, as well as the director of UNC-C’s Center for Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights, said about 40 of the chapter’s 100 members voted unanimously in favor of issuing the statement.
Cox said the issue of Bogdan’s hiring motivated the formation of UNC-C’s AAUP chapter.
“That had already prompted us, a lot of professors, to get together and begin to talk about the serious and deep problems at the university, as central problems of democracy and of what kind of a university is this that hires someone who presided over the Guantanamo Prison Camp for two years?” he said. “Why would the university even seek to hire someone, why would they be attracted to someone with that resume?”
The June 10 statement accused Bogdan of:
- Disrespect for prisoners’ religious and personal materials.
- Force feeding of hunger strikers, placing hunger strikers in solitary confinement.
- Subjecting prisoners to wide temperature variations.
- The enforcement of degrading genital searches and violations of religious rights by disrupting prayer times/access.
- Discouraging group prayer and limiting access to religious materials.
In a letter to the editor published in UNC-C’s student paper, The Niner Times, rising senior Brian Halliburton defended Bogdan’s record, a sentiment he reiterated in an interview.
"John Bogdan never broke the rules, broke the law,” he told The Daily Tar Heel. “He just did the duties that were required of the job.”
The AAUP chapter’s statement made a distinction between legality and morality.
“While some of these actions were upheld by military judges, they clearly violate human decency and the spirit of the Third Geneva Convention and other protocols for the treatment of prisoners,” it said.
The statement also noted that, according to Human Rights Watch, of the 780 individuals known to have been detained at Guantanamo since September 11, 2001, 731 were released without charges.
Criticisms of Guantanamo contradict activists’ behavior, Halliburton said.
“The argument against Guantanamo Bay is that there’s no real due process or anything like that and they want to also get rid of John Bogdan without any sort of due process or inquiry,” he said.
Halliburton said if people object to Guantanamo as an institution, they should broach the topic with policymakers.
“But don’t go after service members for just executing policies and procedures that they’re supposed to follow,” he said.
Cade Lee, a recent UNC-C graduate who supports the movement to remove Bogdan from his position, said that while he understands Halliburton’s argument about the chain of command, he believes torture is a different circumstance.
“There are certain instances in anyone’s career where in order to stay on that ethical and moral high ground, you should probably say no, turn in your credentials and leave rather than torture people,” he said.
Halliburton said he speculated the movement to dismiss Bogdan might be related to his general military experience, not his specific position at Guantanamo. Lee disputed this position, claiming that the opposition to Bogdan serving in his role is associated with specific allegations of torture rather than military affiliation.
The UNC-C AAUP’s statement questioned why Bogdan was hired without prior experience in higher education, despite the fact that it was listed as required in the job advertisement, according to the statement.
“On the one hand, the whole thing is morally appalling and outrageous,” Cox said. “But then at the same time, it also seems to many of us as just an example of the extreme incompetence of many of our university administrations these days and also of the way in which our universities operate in secret, even for important decisions."
A June 11 response to the AAUP’s statement issued by former Chancellor Philip Dubois defended the hiring process.
“We are confident that our search process was conducted appropriately and resulted in an excellent hire in John Bogdan, and that his experience aligns with requirements for the AVC for Safety and Security position,” Dubois said.
Lee said the hiring of Bogdan is indicative of a larger problem.
“It just shows again that students, faculty, and staff are not included in any way in hiring processes of higher-level administrators at the university,” he said.
In his statement, Dubois said he considered the matter of Bogdan’s employment closed, will make no further comment and urges Chancellor Sharon Gaber to do the same.
In an email, a media representative said Gaber declined to comment beyond previous university statements.
Still, Lee said Gaber owes the community her perspective.
“If this is a problem with the Board of Governors — if that’s who pushed John Bogdan on the university — then she also has the unique opportunity to stand up to them publicly,” he said. “Because her priority should not be her personal job security, it should be the safety and security of UNC Charlotte.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.