University of California Students Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons 2007

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Timing
Time Period:  
May 9
2007
to
May 17
2007
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
California
Location Description: 
The campaign took place on the campuses of the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of California at Santa Clara, and the University of California at San Francisco.
Goals: 
The campaigners wanted the University of California Board of Regents to discuss the possibility of severing their contract with the nuclear labs the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which the Board helped to manage.
 

In 2007, the University of California Board of Regents managed the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, two of the largest of the United States government’s nuclear weapons facilities at the time. The Board had managed these facilities since their creation in 1942 and 1952 respectively, and was the government’s largest nuclear contractor for over six decades. In 2007, the government of the United States began considering renovating its entire nuclear arsenal at these two facilities with Livermore’s design of the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

For the previous five years, the student group Coalition to Demilitarize The University of California had been taking various nonviolent actions to pressure the University of California Board of Regents to withdraw its support from these nuclear facilities, conducting teach-ins to educate students on the nuclear facilities and leading a boycott of Alumni donations.

On 9 May 2007, at the very beginning of final exams week, over 40 individuals at four University of California Campuses began a hunger strike, demanding that the University of California Board of Regents debate a resolution to sever ties with the labs at their board meeting on 17 May. University of Santa Clara held a teach-in about the nuclear facilities to begin the hunger strike. Hunger strikers and their supporters at the University of Santa Barbara established a tent community, in front of Cheadle Hall, a major administrative building, which they occupied for the duration of the strike.

Throughout the week, campaigners engaged in various forms of direct action. On 14 May, strikers sent an open letter to all of the University of California faculty members calling on them to support the striking students publicly and to put pressure on the Board of Regents. That same day, University of California- Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang delivered the demands of the hunger striker to the Board of Regents. On 15 May, students at the University of California Berkeley sent an open letter to the Chancellor of the College asking him to call on the Board of Regents to sever ties with the nuclear facilities. That same day, faculty and staff at the University of California Santa Barbara held a rally outside of Cheadle Hall to protest nuclear weapons development by the University of California and to support the hunger-striking students. That night, students held a teach-in at the same location during which they discussed the actual function of the nuclear facilities, the role that the University of California played in the facilities, and nuclear policies in the United States’ and abroad.

Throughout the strike, the fasting students received letters of support from across the country, including a letter of support from the Abolition 2000 caucus, a large international nuclear disarmament organization. Students across the University of California system sent letters to members of the Board of Regents throughout the duration of the strike urging them to consider removing support from the nuclear facilities. They also used a blog to record and promote events of the strike, and to distribute personal stories and information about the nuclear facilities and the University of California’s involvement with them.

The fast lasted for 9 days leading up to the Board of Regents meeting on 17 May. On that day, students held a rally at the University of California San Francisco, during which hunger strikers gave public speeches calling on the Board of Regents to withdraw from their contracts with the nuclear labs. During the Board of Regents meeting, a group of students held a sit-in in the meeting, and when the board did not agree to debate the contract, the students publicly demanded that the university cut its ties with the nuclear weapons facilities. After ordering them to leave, the Board of Regents eventually had 13 students arrested by the police. Immediately after the police removed the protesters, several Regents reached out to student leaders of the strike who were outside, and offered to meet with them about their concerns. This was the first time members of the Board had offered to discuss these demands. Matthew Taylor, one of the arrested students, sent an open letter to a judge refusing community service as a form of punishment and insisting on being prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

On 23 May, the campaigners at University of California Santa Barbara held a press conference in front of Cheadle Hall to discuss what the hunger strike had achieved, which was attended by the faculty and staff who had supported the campaign. After the end of the press conference, they disassembled the tent city that they had been living in for 15 days.

The Board of Directors did not end or even debate their contract with the nuclear labs. The campaigners did not accomplish this goal, and the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California eventually disbanded in 2010.

Research Notes
Sources: 
BondGraham, Darwin. "UC legitimizes nuclear weapons industry." San Francisco Gate. CA]. San Francisco Gate, 18 May 2007. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

"Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California." Wiser: The Social Network for Sustainability. N.p., 7 Apr. 2007. Web. 4 Apr. 2007.

"No Nukes" Hunger Striker Will. "UC Hunger Strikers, Supporters Confront UC Regents On Nuclear Weapons Ties, 13 Arrested." Indy Bay. CA]. San Francisco Gate, 20 May 2007. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

No Nukes Hunger Strike Blog. N.p., 9 May 2007. Web. 4 Apr. 2007. <http://nonukeshungerstrike.blogspot.com>.

Collonge, Chelsea. "The No Nukes Hunger Strike: Reflections on the Fast for a Nuclear-Free UC." Peace Power [Berkeley, CA]. N.p., 20 May n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2014.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Tom McGovern 07/04/2014