While most students prepare for Cal Poly career fairs by printing out resumes and practicing elevator pitches, students from SLO Peace Coalition and Students for Quality Education have other priorities. The student activists will be going over chants and making anti-war signs for the Thursday, Jan. 24. Winter Career Fair, which will be their third career fair protest highlighting Cal Poly’s funding from defense contractors.
“We’re calling attention to the tremendous amount of money and contracts Cal Poly is invested in with companies like Raytheon that create military defense weapons,” Ethnic Studies senior and event co-organizer, Gianna Bissa, said. “These weapons are being sent to different countries and ultimately murdering and displacing many people, as well as destroying the environment. Cal Poly is complicit in war.”
The student groups’ last war industry protest at the April 2018 career fair received media attention after the university sent warning letters to the five students involved. The letters cited a “Time, Place, and Manner” policy regarding campus demonstrations in Cal Poly’s Code of Conduct and threatened formal disciplinary action if the students stage another protest inside a career fair. A petition condemning the letters received more than 3,600 signatures, prompting the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to formally state the protest was not in violation of any policies.
Bissa said they believe students should especially care about Cal Poly’s war industry connections as diversity becomes a bigger topic on campus.
“We are always talking about diversity and inclusivity now, but we can’t have a university that embraces diversity and inclusivity if we are complicit in murdering thousands of people in countries that are mostly brown and black folks,” Bissa said. “The relationships our university has with the world reflects upon our education. All of us attending Cal Poly are somehow invested in this military industrial complex by our attendance at a school so heavily funded by these companies.”
A list of demands for the university are posted on the protest’s event page, which include the demand for Cal Poly to make no new investments or sponsorships with weapons producers.
Cal Poly has multiple connections with Raytheon including donations that total $1.7 million with the largest single donation at $300,000 toward the 2009 construction of the Baker Center for Science and Mathematics, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier.
Raytheon also plays an active role in Cal Poly Career Services’ recruiting programs, working closely with university staff not only to recruit graduates to the company but also to provide counsel on how the university can continually improve its efforts to prepare graduates for success no matter where they might go in their career, said Lazier.
In addition, the company is a financial sponsor for Career Services’ programs, giving $5,000 for the 2018-2019 year and $10,000 in 2017.
Defense and aerospace company Northrop Grumman, also being protested by the students, has donated more than $6 million with the largest single donation of$1.5 million in June 2016 to support cyber security and financial-need-based scholarships. The company has given $5,000 a year for Cal Poly Career Services’ programs since 2016 and smaller amounts in the past.
Bissa said they believe a future where these companies are not welcomed on Cal Poly’s campus is possible.
“This protest is about bringing awareness to students and the administration, because they will without a doubt see what’s going on,” Bissa said. “It’s their responsibility as our administration to understand students are against this and to listen.”