Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brown U.: SDS protests CIA, Raytheon Recruiters

A member of SDS, soaked in fake blood, represents the child of an Argentinian leftist allegedly ordered killed by the CIA in 1978

Group simulates dead bodies
Nicole Dungca
Issue date: 9/24/08 Section: Campus News
Media Credit: Justin Coleman

Protesting the presence of representatives of the CIA and defense contractor Raytheon to recruit on campus, members of Students for a Democratic Society simulated dead bodies in the back of Sayles Hall during Tuesday's crowded Career Fair.

About seven protesters covered themselves in fake blood and held the names of people said to have been killed in connection with either the CIA or Raytheon. About 16 others handed out literature to passersby at the fair, which was sponsored by the Career Development Center. Five lied down near the adjacent booths of the two organizations, slightly obstructing the paths of students and creating some traffic in the back of the room, while two others were positioned near the entrance of the hall.

Protesters passed out small slips of paper that said "Raytheon Kills" because it produces weapons and is the fifth-largest military contractor in the world. The paper also declared the CIA to be "a human rights abuser" because of its "long history of illegal detainment and torture of civilians and overthrowing of democratically elected governments."

During much of the four-hour fair, students attending the fair passed by a male student in a white T-shirt and blue jeans lying next to a pool of fake blood as they filed into Sayles. Behind him, a cardboard sign read: "Child of Argentinian leftist killed in a CIA-ordered explosion with Raytheon radar detonator, 1978."

SDS members demonstrated inside Sayles for about 25 minutes before administrators and police officers asked the protestors to clean up the corn starch they had used in a demonstration and get up off the floor, citing health and safety concerns.

"They clearly made their point, but at what cost?" said Terry Addison, associate dean of student life. "They certainly have the right to protest - no one denies that - but it causes others to be unduly disrupted."

The SDS protest was largely aimed at the University, attempting to dissuade the CDC from inviting the companies back to campus, said Michael da Cruz '09, a member of the activist group. The CIA had an information session early this week, and Raytheon representatives said more employees would come to the school later this month.

"We've asked the CDC multiple times to stop inviting these companies that are widely regarded as gross human rights violators," da Cruz said. "We think Brown's better than that."

Last year, the group sent an e-mail to the CDC and dropped off a letter at its main office, asking them to stop inviting the companies, da Cruz said. "If they come and talk to us after this, we're more than happy to talk with them," he said. "Hopefully, at some point they'll get tired of us protesting and they'll be willing to talk with us."

Kimberly Delgizzo, director of the CDC, said she never received the letter and vaguely recalls reading an e-mail about a protest. In a brief interview after the career fair, she refused to comment on whether the protest would affect the relationship between the University and the targeted companies, but justified the center's reasons for allowing the companies to recruit.

"We at the CDC have an obligation to welcome recruiters who may be of interest to our students," she said. "Our students have a diverse range of interests."

SDS members also wanted to reach out to students, especially those interested in working for the two companies, SDS member Alexander Wankel '11 said. "We just want people to be aware of all these human rights issues associated with these organizations," he said.

Student reactions were mixed. While many stopped to read the cardboard signs and accepted the literature describing problems with Raytheon and the CIA, several gave the protesters little more than a second glance as they stepped over and maneuvered around them to pass.

Some seemed slightly annoyed. As Michelle Moses '09 accidentally stepped into a pool of the dyed corn starch, she grimaced. The protest was inconsiderate to some of the students, she felt.

"We're here trying to network and advance our career, and something like this really makes me lose my focus," she said.

She also doubted the effectiveness of SDS's approach. "I don't think it will be discouraging any of these companies from coming back," Moses said.