Students protest School of Engineering and Applied Sciences partnership with defense contractors
Young Democratic Socialists of America protests, some SEAS students oppose
Students marched to Davis Hall Friday demanding the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences end its partnerships with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are two of SEAS’ 11 gold partners and manufacture defense technologies.
Twenty students, including Young Democratic Socialists of America members and engineering students, gathered in the Student Union lobby before walking to Davis Hall to protest the partnerships. SEAS accepts money from these companies, which use UB to recruit students for internships and jobs.
Lockheed Martin weapons were used in the Feb. 21 Yemen bus bombing which killed over 40 people, with at least 29 victims under 15 years old, according to The Guardian. YDSA said Northrop Grumman raised “billions” from its arms deals with the U.S. military and Saudi Arabia. According to its website, Northrop Grumman is “heavily involved in the training and development of Saudi military personnel” and has sold the F-5 Tiger tactical fighter jet (1971), among other things, to Saudi Arabia.
YDSA condemned both companies as protesters chanted “UB kills babies” and “A better world is possible” while marching to SEAS Interim Dean Rajan Batta’s office with signs reading “Don’t worry –– they won’t drone-strike your kids!” and “UB takes blood money.” Six students from SEAS opposed YDSA, saying many companies, including Apple and Google, currently have or have had contracts with the Department of Defense.
Batta wrote in an email that the two companies also participate in “non-defense related work.” The engineering program relies on the companies’ support, along with support from alumni and other foundations, for students to receive a “well-rounded education,” according to Batta.
“Such gifts and sponsorships help make possible an array of programs that enhance the student experience,” Batta wrote. “For example, [Engineering Partnership Program] funds help support student clubs, STEM education, experiential learning and efforts to prepare our students for a wide range of careers.”
Timothy Dunn, a senior political science major and YDSA secretary, said the two companies promote “imperialism” through “lobbying” and “building and selling” bombs, and students should avoid working for them.
“An engineering degree or any degree from the school can get you jobs at hundreds of different companies,” Dunn said. “You don't have to choose to work for a company that builds bombs, or sells bombs and kills too often.”
Sophia Matla, a junior mechanical and aerospace engineering major, handed out fliers calling YDSA’s argument “hypocritical.” The argument listed various items, including airplanes, remote-operated robots and digital photography, that students likely have used that are maintained by the military.
“Just because they make weapon systems doesn’t mean they’re the ones using it,” Matla said. “So why are they protesting people’s jobs, saying the engineering school shouldn’t accept money from these [companies]?”
SEAS’ partners donate to UB each year and receive perks in exchange, including their logo on UB’s website, signs at UB events, access to school and student club events and access to the dean, according to UB’s website.
Ryan Daniels, a sophomore mechanical aerospace engineering major, said he doesn’t believe SEAS and its students are accepting “blood money” or are war criminals for partnering with defense contractors. He said if SEAS didn’t support these companies, the school would lose a significant amount of funding.
“The problem is that those companies make up a significant portion of SEAS’ budget, and by taking away those companies from our engineering school, we’d be cutting our engineering program down to bare bones –– we wouldn’t be getting a quality education anymore,” Daniels said. “It would make UB a lot less competitive on the engineering stage.”
Calvin Camodeca-Schmitz, co-chair of YDSA, says UB shouldn’t enable partnerships with these companies and hopes the protest brought the partnerships to students’ attention.
“We hope this kicks off a continued campaign for other groups on campus and they will join us in future campaigns on this issue,” Camodeca-Schmitz said. “We hope engineering students saw this and haven’t considered the defense partnerships before and now they are.”
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