Campus Activists Want University to Fire Security Official Who Served at Guantanamo Bay

November 18, 2019 Updated: November 18, 2019

Student activists at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte are calling for the removal of a school security official who has been serving at Guantanamo Bay, going so far as to call the decorated veteran “a war criminal.”

Retired Army Colonel John V. Bogdan was appointed as the UNC-Charlotte’s associate vice chancellor for safety and security last December, according to student newspaper Niner Times. Bogdan’s Linkdin profile suggests that this is his first-ever civilian job after an impressive 34-year-long military career, during which he held positions at the Pentagon and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, among many others.

“John has a track record of leadership providing safety and security in installations and communities around the U.S. and the world,” said vice chancellor for business affairs Elizabeth A. Hardin, in an appointment statement. “He has served in every capacity from infantryman to policy maker, earning respect from peers, superiors and subordinates along the way. His dedication to service and his mission orientation fit well in higher education.”

One particular work experience on Bogdan’s resume, however, has stirred controversy among some students. From 2012 to 2014, Bogdan served as the warden of the Joint Detention Group at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. military prison in Cuba. During his administration, the facility drew criticism over the treatment of its detainees, especially after around 100 of them—there were 166 in total at the time—went on a hunger strike in 2013.

Niner Times reported that as early as August this year, an anonymous flyer appeared on the UNC-Charlotte campus, calling Bogdan a war criminal whose Guantanamo service would make him unsuitable for a school security position. “In Guantanamo Bay, John Bogdan tortured people,” read the flyer. “How could Bogdan possibly be qualified to protect UNCC students, faculty, and staff when all he knows how to do is brutalize his subordinates?”

Bodgan has dismissed such accusations, telling the Niner Times that the flyer is “generally full of inaccuracies” and has distracted him from focusing on the safety and security of the university.

The latest criticism against the former serviceman comes from a student group, identifying itself as “Coalition to Remove John Bogdan.” In a lengthy statement on Twitter, the Coalition complains that having Bogdan as the security administrator make its members “feel unsafe” and demands his resignation.

“We do not feel safe with an accused human rights violator on our campus! We do not feel safe with the warden of Guantanamo on our campus! We are concerned, we are scared, we do not feel safe!” the Coalition wrote in another post.

UNC-Charlotte administrators defended their decision to hire Bogdan, noting that his appointment was the result of a thorough investigation and national search.

“Prior to his employment, Bogdan went through a multi-step review process, including extensive reference and background checks, and underwent an assessment of behavioral competencies,” the school said in a statement to the local WCNC. “References spoke of his character and commitment to service, which have been evident in his time at the University.”