Some students and faculty at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte want the school to fire its associate vice chancellor for safety and security over his decades of military experience, which includes a stint as warden of the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
John Bogdan is a retired U.S. Army colonel who transitioned from a 34-year military career to become UNC Charlotte’s associate vice chancellor for safety and security in December 2018, and he’s since help navigate the school through a shooting in 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic this year. But students and staff are calling on school officials to sack Bogdan over his “egregious record in Guantanamo Bay,” where he served as warden of the infamous U.S. Naval Station that houses the world’s most dangerous terrorists, Inside Higher Ed reports.
The American Association of University Professors for the UNC Charlotte campus sent a letter to UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. DuBois this month criticizing Bogdan’s hire based on a letter from the defense attorneys of terrorists complaining about conditions in Guantanamo Bay. The letter, printed by Al Jazeera in 2013, alleged inspections of Qurans prompted a months-long hunger strike at the facility under Bogdan’s command, and guards responded with physical abuse, sleep deprivation, searches and raids, solitary confinement, and freezing cold temperatures in the cells.
The letter complained of “degrading bodily searches,” “the systematic seizure of attorney-client privileged materials by personnel,” “guard disruptions during attempted prayers” and restriction of religious materials, according to the news site.
Lawyers for the alleged terrorists urged then Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to examine Bogdan’s fitness for command. About 200 students launched an unsuccessful bid to oust Bogdan last year, and they’re now teaming with the AAUP to try again.
“The things he’s been accused of doing, that’s not something you want on your college campus,” student Greg Mateo told WSOC last year. “He does create fear by his presence.”
“If I don’t even trust you to go to you for help, why would I want you to stay here?” then sophomore Kenya Banks said in 2019. “Even if it’s not true, the fact that it’s a possibility, why would you want him to be the head of a campus that’s already going through enough?”
The UNCC professors are now leveraging the current race riots and Black Lives Matter protests to pressure DuBois to do more than simply fire Bogdan.
“Given the justified national concerns about the militarization of police forces – including campus police – we suggest you start by dismissing John Bogdan; severing ties with the search firm that recommended him; disavowing the Chancellor’s internally circulated ‘Fact Set regarding Bogdan’; and creating an advisory council of faculty, students and police that would draw up a mandate for acceptable policing in our university,” the June 10 AAUP letter reads.
DuBois defended the decision to hire Bogdan in 2019 and he’s not backing down now.
“It suffices to say at this point that we are going to have to agree to disagree on the version of the facts presented by the AAUP regarding the search process and Mr. Bogdan’s military service record,” DuBois wrote in response the next day.
DuBois described Bogdan as an “excellent hire” and made it clear he has no plans to remove him.
“Notwithstanding the AAUP’s characterization of Mr. Bogdan’s military experience, we are confident that, in his civilian capacity, he is fully capable of acting in a professional manner and adhering to the expectations we have with respect to the behavior of senior administrative officers. That confidence has been justified based on his performance to date,” DuBois wrote.
“It is equally clear from Mr. Bogdan’s performance to date, including his exemplary work in leading the expansive efforts relating to the review of events of April 30, 2019, and the COVID-19 campus recovery plan, that there is no basis to dismiss him from his position.”
DuBois, who retires on June 30, wrote that he also advised his replacement to keep Bogdan at UNCC.