Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

Protesters shut down recruiting event for top defense contractor General Dynamics

Protesters are pictured holding signs in the SEC on Apr. 25, 2022.

A General Dynamics Mission Systems recruiting event in the Science and Engineering Complex was cut short on Monday evening when student and community protestors disrupted the event with chanting and civil disobedience.

General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense company, is the sixth-largest defense contractor in the world with billions of dollars in annual revenue. It manufactures tanks, ships, oil tankers, business jets, intelligence and surveillance technologies, missiles, rockets, components of nuclear missiles and more. Its primary customer is the U.S. Department of Defense, although it also does business with foreign governments and private corporations. General Dynamics Mission Systems is the security and technology branch of General Dynamics.

Monday’s recruiting event was scheduled to last from 5–8 p.m. but was cut short around 6:30 p.m., after protesters disrupted the recruiters’ presentations in the SEC atrium. The event was staffed by a handful of General Dynamics representatives and attended by about four students, according to one of the attendees. The protesters numbered at least 20 and included undergraduate and graduate students and local community members.

In response to speeches and chanting from protesters, the General Dynamics recruiters initially moved their information session from the SEC atrium into a smaller room in Anderson Hall. After protesters disrupted that meeting too, the recruiters packed up their materials and left.

In the SEC atrium, protesters called attention to a 2018 airstrike inYemen, where General Dynamics-manufactured guided missiles hit a school bus and killed 40 children.

“Imagine that you’re 10, 12 years old, returning back from a field trip, and all of a sudden a bomb falls on your head and kills your entire class,” one protester shouted into a megaphone, drowning out a General Dynamics recruiter’s presentation on open positions at the company.

Tom Crosson, director of public affairs at General Dynamics Mission Systems, did not offer a direct response to questions from the Daily about the 2018 drone strike in Yemen. Instead, he shared a link to the “Corporate Responsibility” section of the company’s 2021 “Corporate Sustainability Report.” The report asserts the company’s respect for human rights, a value which it says “is embedded at all levels of [its] business.”

Maya Morris, a senior at Tufts and one of the organizers of the protest, held a sign reading, “U.S.-made bombs kill Yemeni children.”

“General Dynamics exists to profit off of wars. That is the basis of their existence,” Morris told the Daily. “If there is no war, they cannot make money; they cannot profit. It doesn’t matter which sector you work for under General Dynamics. The basis of their existence is in order to make money by the sale of arms.”

As the General Dynamics recruiters prepared to move their event upstairs to Anderson Hall, Lieutenant Moses Curry of the Tufts University Police Department informed the protesters that they were violating the Student Code of Conduct by disrupting the study space in the SEC atrium. The protesters agreed to move their demonstration outside to the front steps of the SEC, where they continued to chant and give speeches for another hour.

Jeff Parente heard about the protest through Massachusetts Peace Action, an anti-war nonprofit. He served in the U.S. military for eight years and is a member of Veterans for Peace. 

“As a military contractor —  as a member of the military industrial complex — [General Dynamics enables] our government and our military to pursue all of these actions across the world, all the drone bombings,” Parente said. “If it wasn’t for these companies coming up with all these new, innovative weapons — the drones and the smart bombs and everything else — the military wouldn’t be able to do everything. If it wasn’t for things like the drones, we would need more actual military members in the countries, and that might make people question things more.”

In an email to the Daily, Crosson defended General Dynamics’ corporate mission and values.

“Our ethos is rooted in five values: honesty, trust, humanity, alignment, and value creation,” Crosson wrote. “Our employees are a community of people dedicated to this ethos. It is our ethos that drives us to be good stewards of the investments in us by our shareholders, customers, employees and communities.” 

While most of the protesters demonstrated outside, three students followed the recruiters into the Anderson Hall room, where they continued questioning the company’s business model and values. The three students were called out of the room by Curry, who asked them to identify themselves. Curry told the students they had disrupted a lawful meeting by misidentifying themselves to the recruiters in order to get into the relocated information session. One student replied that they had accurately stated their identity to the recruiter as an engineering student in order to get into the room.

When the students declined to give up their IDs or share their names, Curry told them, “We have cameras all over the place. … We’re going to be able to identify everybody.”

“We’re not trying to threaten you guys by any means,” Curry added.

Dr. Karen Panetta, dean of graduate education for the School of Engineering, organized the recruiting event. In a written statement to the Daily, she explained that she was open to hearing what the protesters had to say but disapproved of their methods.

“We celebrate students presenting diverse perspectives, and I personally welcomed the student protesters for respectful discourse. The guest visitors were also happy to have the protesting students present at the event to discuss their views,” Panetta wrote. “Dishonesty, intimidation, bullying and vulgarity do not win consensus or respect and are not characteristic of a peaceful protest. These behaviors only serve to divide and drive people farther apart and have no place at Tufts.”