The Central Intelligence Agency and CUNY: Empire, Knowledge Production, and the University

Marianne Madoré, Sociology

In March of 2018, it was made known that a MemoCIA declassified documentsrandum of Understanding (MoU) had been signed between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Baruch College. This memorandum established a formal partnership between the CIA and Baruch for “acquiring talent for the CIA’s diverse workforce.”[1] Baruch became one of four schools in the CIA’s Signature School Program, as part of the CIA’s recruitment strategy focused on diversity. All four schools (Baruch, University of Illinois at Chicago, Florida International University, and University of New Mexico) are public universities and targeted for the “broad range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, language expertise, and educational and life experiences” of their students. As acknowledged by CIA’s Associate Director for Talent, Maja Lehnus, this recruitment strategy is central to the CIA’s “ability to operate effectively worldwide.”[2]

This project seeks to gather information about the CIA-Baruch agreement and situate it within histories of imperialism and knowledge production in the university. Since the agreement has been announced, there has been sparse coverage and public conversation surrounding it. Specifically, I am interested in the following questions: How did this agreement come into being? What does it indicate and not indicate about the CIA’s reach and influence on campus? How does one locate this agreement in the longer history of militarism and resistance at CUNY? What does the agreement say about the relationship between imperialism and the university more broadly?

[1] Central Intelligence Agency, “Memorandum of Understanding between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Baruch College,” August 31, 2017,

[2] Central Intelligence Agency, “CIA Kicks-off Signature School Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago,” February 28, 2018,