Student protests against Cal Poly’s partnerships with defense companies are expected at the Spring Career Fair April 17-18. More than 200 companies are expected to attend the event.

In recent years, small groups of student activists have unfurled “Divest From War” banners and called the university “complicit in war” by accepting donations from certain companies. Although three of their recent targets – Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing – are not listed as attendees at the Spring Career Fair, student protestors say they are gearing up again for this month’s career fair.

Ethnic studies senior and coordinator of Students for Quality Education (SQE) Gianna Bissa said the organization plans to take some form of action during the upcoming fair.

“People come and recruit masses of students to be a part of their company with these ‘hard to turn away’ salaries that are way bigger than you could get in industries that are actually doing a lot of sustainable work for renewable energy,” Bissa said.

At the Winter Career Fair, SQE teamed up with the SLO Peace Coalition to protest the university’s partnerships with defense-contractor corporations such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing — all of which financially support Cal Poly Career Service recruiting programs and have donated upward of $8 million in total to STEM programs at the university.

Cal Poly STEM Partnership Donations

According to university spokesperson Matt Lazier, despite previous protests, Cal Poly would only prevent a company from participating in career fairs if the company is found to be fraudulent, or if the event space is filled to capacity. Career Services’ primary goal is to set up Cal Poly students for future success and provide them with opportunities regardless of the industry they choose.

“The university appreciates the support it receives from all partners — including its defense industry partners — and does not intend to back away from them, as they are key to delivering student success,” Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News.

Lazier said the lack of participation from Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing at the Spring Career Fair was a decision made by each company. He said it is generally common for major companies to not recruit in spring, due to filled job and internship spaces at the end of the recruiting budget year.

In an April 12 meeting, Bissa said President Armstrong and Dean of Students Kathleen McMahon did not express interest in divesting from any military companies due to the benefits of funding and lack of relation to education quality and campus culture at the university. 

Bissa said SQE will continue to strive for what the organization defines as “quality education” at Cal Poly.

“You can’t remove the campus climate — especially the lack of diversity as well as the partners that are donating to the campus and ultimately in charge of a lot of what is going on as far as what’s being taught — from the classroom,” Bissa said.

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