Recently, Julie Sze and Sunaina Maira, the authors of a 2012 American Quarterly “Currents” contribution titled “Dispatches from Pepper Spray University: Privatization, Repression, and Revolts,” were contacted by the former chancellor of the University of California at Davis, Linda Katehi, under whose authority the pepper spraying of student protesters took place.1 Katehi alleged that aspects of the essay were faulty and defamatory. Additionally, Katehi contacted Johns Hopkins University Press, questioning the scholarly integrity of the journal. American Quarterly publishes errata on factual errors found since publication but as a general principle does not publish readers’ responses to contents of the journal, as we believe there are many other venues in which scholarly debates over published materials can take place. However, given the seriousness of the charges, we asked Sze and Maira to respond.

 Statement by Julie Sze and Sunaina Maira

 We thank Linda Katehi for pointing out the factual error in our 2012 piece and for a chance to reaffirm our fundamental argument about privatization, repression, and revolts as well as the global contexts in which struggles against austerity and student protests take place. 

 In her correspondence to the authors and the journal, Katehi pointed out that the International Committee on Higher Education in Greece that she served on and which we cited in the AQ piece did not make a specific claim about amnesty or the asylum law that prevents police from entering Greek universities. She is correct, and we apologize for that specific error.  

 Although the International Committee on Higher Education in Greece report did not make a particular claim about amnesty, its findings on the culture of campuses remain of interest to us as scholars. The report reads: “Greek university campuses are not secure. While the Constitution allows University leaders to protect campuses against elements that seek political instability, Rectors have been reluctant to exercise their rights and responsibilities, and to make decisions needed in order to keep faculty, staff and students safe.”2

 Greece has been an important node in the global circuit of student protests for democracy and against austerity. As we note in our essay, the asylum law for Greek universities was a response to the 1973 student protests at Athens Polytechnic against the CIA-backed military junta. On December 8, 2008, a fifteen-year-old student was killed by police in the Exarchia neighborhood in Athens, sparking an uprising by students and youth across Greece and solidarity demonstrations around the world—an event commemorated annually in Greece. In 2011 the repeal of the asylum law passed in Greece in the context of anti-austerity activism and its repression.3 It was later reinstated and is now under pressure.4 The crux of our 2012 reflection, written just months after the violent pepper spraying of students on our campus, was pivoted on the language and ideology of “security” and “safety.”

 Privatization and revolts are globally networked. So, too, are struggles for justice and freedom, often driven and led by students. In 2019 various global uprisings, from Chile to Hong Kong, show how campuses are often the front line of struggles for freedom and against authoritarianism. We apologize for the error about the International Committee on Higher Education report, but we stand behind the rest of the piece. Since the piece was published, the global authoritarian turn, and its attack on universities, demands no less of a defense, and the honesty and accountability of university administrators to students at public universities does matter, as do questions about the policing and militarization of campuses.   

 Sarah Banet-Weiser, editor at the time of publication, and Mari Yoshihara, current editor, both endorse the above statement and reaffirm the scholarly and editorial integrity of American Quarterly.


1. “Currents” are “short think pieces for publication . . . intended as timely forms of writing that will intervene in contemporary issues of importance to scholars in American studies.” Currents were commissioned by the Managing Board and subject to editorial but not blind review.

2. “The Report of the International Advisory Committee on Greek Higher Education,” NOT the Majority Opinion, February 2011,

3. Jack Grove, “No More ‘Asylum’ for Greek Academics,” Inside Higher Education, October 21, 2011,

4. Niki Kitsantonis, “Greece Weighs Ending Law Barring the Police from Campuses,” New York Times, July 22, 2019,