Students and community members protest Raytheon Technologies outside of Marcus Hall engineering career fair

“Education and making money are two different things.”

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Caitlin Reardon/Daily Collegian

By Caitlin Reardon, Assistant News Editor

A small group of community organizers gathered outside of Marcus Hall to protest Raytheon Technologies and other defense companies’ presence at the engineering career fair held on Sept. 21.

The career fair, aimed for all engineering students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, hosts over 70 companies across the four-day event, including companies such as Raytheon Technologies, Infineon, General Dynamics and Sensata Technologies.

UMass and Raytheon Technologies have a history of partnering to conduct research through the university, the defense company primarily funding this research. Raytheon has also collaborated with UMass Lowell to develop the Raytheon UMass Lowell Research Institute.

Outside of Marcus Hall, Joyce Caliendo, a former UMass graduate student and the primary organizer of the protest, stood on the concrete steps leading chants through a megaphone. Caliendo expressed her disapproval of the relationship between UMass and Raytheon Technologies.

Caliendo is also part of the UMass Revolutionary Marxist Students group, a national student organization that aims to study and provide clarity to different political issues happening across the world. Caliendo attended the University of Connecticut, studying astronomy. She came to feel that she wasn’t adequately learning how the projects she was working on would be tangibly applied to larger society.

“They want students to not think about society at large,” Caliendo said, referring to working for large defense companies. “They don’t want us to think about the politics behind what we’re doing in science fields,”

“They need us. They need our intellectual labor. As students, we have that leverage,” she said over a megaphone to passersby.

Maheen Hussain, member of the Revolutionary Marxist Students group and senior computer science major, explained to the crowd that UMass perpetuates a system where students work for major corporations; generating wealth for a small portion of the population, at the expense of others.

“UMass and Raytheon are not a unique relationship within this country,” Hussain said. He noted that Tufts, MIT and Harvard all host companies like Raytheon, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin for research studies and career events.

“They see the talent that UMass offers, they see the engineering program, and you know, that’s really fertile ground for people to be pushed into that route,” Hussain said.

Companies like Raytheon Technologies partner with universities for the purpose of research, funding and recruiting prospective graduates. Protesters were critical of these companies’ relationship with public universities, as defense corporations also work with developing weaponry.

Nick Mottern, an 83-year-old veteran from Northampton, served in the Navy during Vietnam from 1960 to 1963. When he came back to the U.S., he realized he was mistaken for believing that democracy is a worthy cause for war.

Mottern is now a member of Veterans for Peace, an organization made up of veterans who speak out against militarism.

“When I was in Vietnam, I saw that the leaders of the country were very corrupt,” Mottern said. “I was very ignorant.”

“[Defense companies] offer big money and they offer technological advancement. And they know that many, many students are deep in debt,”

By having students work for defense contractors, “It’s like they’re recruited into the military but it’s not official,” he said.

Mottern expressed how UMass itself is also to blame for partnering with defense industry giants.

“The University has responsibility to avoid engaging their students in unethical, profiteering off of blood,” he said.

Terisa Turner, Montague resident and a member of Code Pink, used to teach at UMass and Smith College. Code Pink is a social justice organization focused on ending militarism.

“I’m very glad to see people here demonstrating against Raytheon and all the military contractors that are getting so much of our tax money right now,” Turner said. “[Tax money] that is so badly needed in this narrow window of time that we have to address ecocide, notably through species extinction and climate crisis.”

She also noted how private companies like Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin financially benefit from having students work under them, both in an educational setting and professionally. Turner’s sign read, “Raytheon – stop preying on indebted students.”

“They say to the student ‘we’ll pay you more’ and then the student’s supposed to forget about [the] violence that that entails, and the efforts to cover up that violence and to deny that violence in a way that their life will be ruined by it,” Turner said. “We don’t want to allow these death dealers, these death profiteers, onto a public campus.”

“Education and making money are two different things.”

The Department of Engineering career fair declined to comment on the protest.

Caitlin Reardon can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @caitlinjreardon.