Olivia Peluso is an English junior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Walk through the halls of Cal Poly’s science buildings and you will find laboratories with signs commemorating companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, all of whom are guilty of crimes against humanity.
These American companies manufacture weaponry that has been directly linked to thousands of civilian deaths in the last year alone. Yet despite their utterly inhumane practices, these companies maintain a prominent presence on our campus.
“Northrop Grumman is the largest source of scholarship money for Cal Poly, confirmed by President Armstrong,” anthropology and geography senior and member of the SLO Peace Coalition Kelsey Zazanis said. Since 2016, Northrop Grumman has donated $6 million in Cal Poly scholarships and also gives $5,000 a year for Cal Poly Career Services. Cal Poly has a Raytheon scholarship and a Lockheed Martin scholarship as well. Moreover, the College of Engineering hosts the “Raytheon Excellence in Teaching and Applied Research Award.” The SLO Peace Coalition has been protesting these partnerships for a year now, with their first protest in April 2018 following the launch of 66 Raytheon Tomahawk missiles at Syria. These airstrikes added $10 billion to weapons manufacturer stock values, according to Zazanis.
Year after year, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are among the top five companies that profit most off war. Lockheed Martin made an estimated $44.9 billion just in arms sales in 2017 alone, cutting deals with our own governments in the United States and around the world. We find evidence of this global influence in the ruins of countries at war; Lockheed Martin was responsible for a bomb that Saudi Arabia dropped on a Yemeni school bus, killing 40 boys and 11 adults. That is just one grim example of many that illustrate their gruesome global impact.
The current situation in Yemen, what the UN has described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” is directly linked to Cal Poly’s partner companies, which arm Saudi Arabia. Since April 2018, over 130,000 children have died of starvation or disease as a direct result of this Saudi-led war, which seeks to destroy water and food infrastructure (which is, in fact, a war crime). That is, family farms, fishing boats, ports, schools and hospitals are being attacked and destroyed by bombs manufactured and exported by the very companies that are physically and financially present on our campus.
Raytheon made $27 billion in arms sales in 2018 alone and was granted $63.3 million by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the development of hypersonic weapons, which when successful travel anywhere from 5 to 25 times the speed of sound. By accepting scholarship and other development money from these companies, Cal Poly too profits from the cycle of war. Bill Swanson, head of Cal Poly’s Foundation Board of Directors, was the Raytheon CEO for ten years. During his tenure, sales grew 26% overall — that’s 26% more weapons being sold, shipped and deployed unto citizens of our earth. He, a Cal Poly graduate himself, recently donated $10 million to the golf team and another $100,000 to the journalism department. Would he have this money to donate had he not made a fortune off war?
To that, I say thank you, but no thank you. I do not want to sound ungrateful, but I prefer to not benefit off blood money and hope Cal Poly would concur. I understand that at our state school, education funding is difficult to acquire and constantly required. However, I would rather work harder and longer to fund my own education rather than accept money from a man who directly profited off the constant wartime of the past decade. While college-age students across the world in countries like Yemen, Syria and Iraq died at the hands of U.S.-manufactured weaponry, we reap benefits from the same. Does that sit well with you?
The overwhelming presence of war profiteers like Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop-Grumman in our programs, on our administrative boards and at our career fairs makes Cal Poly and its students direct players in the military-industrial complex. Cal Poly lists these companies on their website under “Companies that Regularly Visit and Recruit on Campus.” Is that a badge we should wear so proudly? I firmly believe Cal Poly needs to sever its ties with these companies that profit off death and destruction. Their financial and vocational influence on campus is a reflection of poor ethics among our administration. Students here in our STEM classes learn exceptional skills that should not be squandered on murder. Why not instead fill our career fairs with companies that use STEM to improve quality of life rather than end lives?
I am aware that these companies are not strictly weapons manufacturers — but they are foremostly weapons manufacturers by a staggering majority. According to Times magazine, 94% of Raytheon’s total sales came directly from arms sales in 2017. This leaves all other projects for which the company is praised, such as cybersecurity and aerospace research, in the vast minority of their scope. The numbers illustrate that Raytheon functions primarily as a weapons manufacturer; other, much smaller programs are no justifiable excuse for their presence on campus when their global impact is most accurately shown through destruction and murder.
In this vast world of opportunities, must we welcome four of the largest global war profiteers to interact with our students?
If the administration maintains relationships with these perpetrators, I urge students to refrain from involvement with these companies. Pay them no attention at the career fair and instead channel the skills you’ve acquired towards making the world a better place — not a bloodier one.