UMass Dissenters present petition to Isenberg administration

Student group seeks to end UMass’ partnership with Raytheon

Courtesy of Toby Paperno / UMass Dissenters.

Courtesy of Toby Paperno / UMass Dissenters.

By Grace Fiori and Ronan Fitzgerald

On Wednesday Nov. 9, UMass Dissenters organized a walk through the Isenberg School of Management Learning Commons where student demonstrators designed posters, delivered petition signatures and led chants.

The group congregated at the office of Dean Anne Massey. Founding members of the UMass Dissenters Toby Paperno and Arsema Kifle presented copies of the petition and signatures to William Brown Jr., associate dean for finance, operations and strategic initiatives. Brown briefly came out of his office to speak with the assembled students.

The petition requested that Isenberg end its education partnership with Raytheon Technologies. The UMass Dissenters object to Raytheon’s defense contracts with the U.S. military, in which they manufacture missiles and other weapons of technology.

As of Nov. 28, the petition had over 670 signatures from University of Massachusetts undergraduates, graduates and community members.

On Nov. 9, the Dissenters met outside of the entrance of Isenberg, where they made posters reading “Isenberg has blood on its hands” and “End UMass war profiteering.” They held a large banner reading, “Dissent!” before proceeding through the learning commons.

Outside of the administrative suite, Kifle pointed a bullhorn at the closed door. “Whoever is in that office that doesn’t want to come out here and address us like adults, we know you’re in there and we just want to talk,” Kifle said.

Brown came out and was presented the petition and roster of signatures. There was a brief back and forth between Brown, Paperno and Kifle.

According to a video of the interaction, Paperno replied, “And so why are companies that profit from death and profit from war … partnered with Isenberg?” After which the Dissenters handed over copies of the petition and prepared to leave.

Roughly 30 people participated in the demonstration. “We made our voices heard,” said Ayva Holden, a sophomore political science major. “The whole goal is to make them listen. We plan on being very persistent in this fight, we plan to keep fighting no matter what.”

UMass has worked with Raytheon Technologies for many years to conduct and fund research; the Isenberg School of Management has an educational partnership with Raytheon Technologies that offers discounts on master’s programs.

“Lots of companies get a discount with us for sending people to get their master’s degree,” Associate Dean Brown told the Dissenters.

Campus Spokesperson Edward Blaguszewski, in a statement to the Daily Collegian, added that the partnerships “support Isenberg’s mission to offer state-of-the-art education that is accessible and affordable to all learners.”

“The school also accepts support from companies interested in helping our students, including through scholarship funds and occasional sponsorship of special events,” Blaguszewski continued.

The Dissenters viewed the petition as a way of starting the conversation about cutting ties with Raytheon. Previous protests on campus have also sought to increase the UMass community’s awareness about the relationship.

“We want[ed] to target something specific that people can see,” said Paperno, a sophomore social thought and political economy major, regarding the decision to begin the campaign with Isenberg. He noted that one of the top results when you search “Raytheon and UMass” is the degree program with Isenberg.

“From an Isenberg student [perspective], specifically, I think it was a reaction of confusion and almost hilarity. But it is not surprising,” Holden said. “We weren’t expecting to grab their solidarity in the fight yet.”

Holden acknowledged, “we haven’t gotten much traction with the Isenberg faculty.”

Raytheon is one of 23 other educational partners in Isenberg and is involved in the industry partner program within the College of Engineering. “There are other people that recruit at engineering fairs,” Paperno said. “Why should one of those companies be one that makes weapons to kill people?”

The Dissenters organization is hoping to reframe and push UMass “to look for partners in other [industries], other sectors,” Paperno said. “Green energy and sustainable corporations that they could be partnered with and that they are already partnered with.”

“We are open to working with Isenberg in theory,” Paperno said. Members expressed concerns, however, that agreeing to meetings will give the University no incentive to compromise; it could potentially deflate momentum that could produce tangible results.

“It can just get co-opted and all these people in power can belittle you and talk their way out of it. They have more money than us … more PR people than us,” Paperno said. “We don’t want to meet with them until we have enough people-power that puts us on the same level as them.”

The Dissenters are planning to continue demonstrating and developing “more tactics of escalation.” Holden suggested the possibility of teach-ins.

The UMass Dissenters chapter is a subset of the national organization Dissenters. Their mission is to organize local campaigns to dismantle institutions’ partnerships with defense contractors.

The student group at UMass is not a Registered Student Organization and instead receives funding —about $300 per month, according to Paperno— guidelines and educational materials from the nonprofit.

“The overall goal of the group in general is to end war and militarism. [And to] stigmatize war and militarism throughout the U.S, but specifically across college campuses,” Holden said. “What we’re doing, it varies amongst every chapter.”

Since forming in late September and establishing weekly gatherings, the Dissenters have had over 100 students attend meetings. They have a core group of 30 people, “who are consistent, really passionate about it, [have] built relationships with people and [are] starting to do the work,” Paperno said.

“Our goal is to get war profiteering [industries] out of UMass in general,” Paperno said. He referenced companies such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Boeing. By starving them of access to educational institutions, “where are they going to get their PhD graduate students and their business majors and their engineers from?”

 

Grace Fiori can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @grace_fiori. Ronan Fitzgerald can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ronanjamesfitz.