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GeoSLU To Train “Warfighters” and Spies

In an August 26, 2020 email, SLU’s Vice President for Research, Ken Olliff, made the following announcement:

The Geospatial Institute at Saint Louis University (GeoSLU) was awarded a $5M grant, called GEOINT Learning through Academic Programs (GLAP) to train the workforce of the Department of Defense and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) over the next 5 years. The global workforce of these organizations will take courses on Geoinformatics and Geospatial Data Science from our faculty in St. Louis. This is a significant contribution towards making St. Louis a national and international hub for geospatial science and technologies.

The NGA proclaims that it “delivers world-class geospatial intelligence that provides a decisive advantage to policymakers, warfighters, intelligence professionals and first responders.” You read it correctly—it actually says “warfighters.” Of course, “intelligence professionals” is a euphemism for “spies.” The About page on the NGA website further informs us that the “NGA enables the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense (DOD) to fulfill the president’s national security priorities to protect the nation.”

The US government continues to engage in unjust military interventions throughout the world; it also continues to flagrantly violate people’s civil liberties around the world by spying on them. SLU will now train workers at the Department of Defense and NGA to carry out such actions—that is, SLU will train warfighters and spies for the US government.

According to the Geospatial Ethics page on GeoSLU’s website, the “Geospatial Ethics Research and Practice Group has been assembled with the express mission of scrutinizing geospatial technologies and practices for their ethical quality, in a manner consistent with SLU’s commitment to justice and the common good.” Apparently, the Geospatial Ethics Research and Practice Group believes that accepting money to train workers at the Department of Defense and NGA to prosecute wars and spy on people is “consistent with SLU’s commitment to justice and the common good.”

As a university community, are we comfortable with accepting money to train wafighters and spies for the US government? As “OneSLU,” what does this say about our commitment to social justice? If SLU truly stands for social justice, rather than accepting money to train warfighters and spies, shouldn’t we protest the US government’s unjust wars and spying?

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