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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 19, 2024

Students, community members protest military industrial recruitment at career fair

The entrance of Gantcher Center is pictured on Aug. 28, 2020.

Students and community members gathered outside of the Gantcher Center on Feb. 10 to protest student recruitment at the career fair by military-industrial organizations. Sponsored by the Tufts Career Center, the fair featured booths from defense organizations like The MITRE Corporation, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the U.S. Army New England, among other non-military organizations.

The protest began outside with a crowd of more than 30 protesters chanting, before moving the demonstration inside Gantcher.

Maya Morris, who graduated from Tufts in 2022, is a leader of the Revolutionary Marxist Students Group, the protest’s primary sponsor. Morris gave her own speech at the start of the protest and led a variety of chants.

“A lot of us got together because … we want to oppose the university’s relationships to these companies, government agencies, think tanks [and] entities in general that have a relationship to the military industry,” she said.

The organization claims to have over 200 signatures on their petition to end on-campus recruitment by companies with ties to national defense.

“Tufts university, and many alike, are organs of the ruling class, serving it’s imperialist interests in several ways,” the petition states. “We further condemn the University’s role in encouraging us, the students, to take part in organizations that perpetuate and sponsor systematic violence against the people.”

Donna Esposito, executive director of the Tufts Career Center, said that employers’ presence at a Career Center event should not be interpreted as a university endorsement of that organization.

“We respect the right of students to exercise their free speech rights and to express their opinions in accordance with Tufts’ policy on Gatherings, Protests, and Demonstrations, which they did,” Esposito said. “We also know that many students are interested in hearing about the varied job and internship opportunities available. ... The Career Center consistently encourages students to select opportunities that best align with their personal interests and values.”

Nick Rabb, a Ph.D. student in the computer science program, co-led the movement and offered a call to action in his speech outside Gantcher.

“A group of us saw that the Career Fair was bringing certain military-industrial companies … like MIT Lincoln Labs, MITRE, State Department, the Army, et cetera,” Rabb said. “We were pretty disappointed by that because we know that these companies are involved in manufacturing things like missile systems, aircraft systems [and] artificial intelligence that’s designed for warfare.”

For Rabb, the son of a Pakistani immigrant, the decision to protest was personal.

“I know, from my family’s stories and experiences, very intimately, what these types of companies end up doing to people’s lives,” Rabb said.

Rabb believes Tufts has not done enough to inform students of the work done at certain companies invited to the fair.

“Tufts has relationships with the U.S. government, the Army, these types of military industrial companies, and we want them to cut ties with these companies, because they give them a lot of power in the world,” he said. “Whether they are recruiting students to these companies, inviting them in for recruitment events, it gives a huge platform to these companies. At the very least, if they didn’t do anything, I think that Tufts should commit itself to actually saying what these companies do.”

Sophia, a senior at Tufts studying Spanish and international literary and visual studies, protested inside Gantcher.

“We’re not here to criticize or blame any of our peers,” Sophia said. “We’re supporting them because the university is disingenuine about the organizations it promotes.”

Sophia stood next to the Army recruitment booth during the protest, holding a sign that read “U.S. Army, you can’t hide, we can see your war crimes.”

“I think that anybody would be nervous, right? Standing beside the U.S. military,” Sophia said. “But the people standing behind these booths are people too. They’re people and they’re members of our community.”

Morris remains doubtful that the university will act on their protest’s demands.

“We want the university to see that opposition, both through our protests and through this petition, and for them to cease to invite all of these entities to campus,” she said. “Do I think they’ll do it? No. So that’s a challenge: Take it up, Tufts.”