University of Mass Destruction:
University of Mass Destruction:
For over six decades, the
The fealty of the UC Board of Regents to the nuclear industry is such that, during Fiscal Year 2005-06, the UC received almost as much money from the Department of Energy to conduct nuclear weapons programs ($2.76 billion) as it received from the State of California for education ($2.85 billion).(3)
On Wednesday, May 9th, 41 UC students, alumni, and faculty members began a hunger strike to demand that the UC retract its management of the Los Alamos and
This bold act of civil resistance comes at a critical time. In March, the US Nuclear Weapons Council, an interagency committee of executives from the Departments of Defense and Energy, announced that the UC's
The larger context for these programs is that the
The UC stands to play a central role in these developments. But it is instructive to note that the Regents do not really "manage" LANL and LLNL in any meaningful sense. As a UC faculty committee observed in 1970, the UC's role at the weapons labs is akin to that of a "benevolent absentee landlord." The Regents rubber-stamp everything the labs do, providing no actual oversight of their programs and policies -- precisely as the (DOE) requires of them.
From the perspective of the DOE, then, what is the benefit of UC weapons lab management, or the illusion thereof? As the largest public research university system in the world, the UC provides the ultimate fig leaf of academic respectability to nuclear weapons science. Over 30 years ago, the late grassroots organization the UC Nuclear Weapons Labs Conversion Project noted: "The UC does not manage the nuclear weapons labs, but rather the public relations about the weapons labs." By casting the UC's intellectual and political capital on the side of the nuclear weapons industry, the Regents help to legitimize everything these labs do.
By contrast, if the Regents withdrew their management of LANL and LLNL, they would effectively do the opposite: They would provide the weapons labs with the worst publicity possible. The political consequences of their doing so would be vast. A major crisis would ensue for the nuclear weapons complex. Congress might awaken to the necessity of overseeing the labs' work in a more meaningful way. Morale among lab workers would plunge. The public discourse about nuclear weapons would shift in a small but significant way. Those who favor disarmament would have achieved a major victory that they could mobilize in their effort to eliminate nuclear weapons once and for all.
That is particularly so at this critical juncture. The Regents have rarely been more politically vulnerable in their capacity as nukes lab managers. The labs' new hydrogen bomb program, misleadingly referred to as the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), has virtually no technical justification and is clearly contrary to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which commits the
If the RRW dies, the
The day prior to the hunger strike, the UC officially received a new contract, only with a twist: It will manage the lab as part of a limited-liability corporation with Bechtel Corporation, two other multi-national firms, and
The focus of the UC hunger strike is, in many ways, the UC Regents meeting at UC San Francisco on Thursday, May 17th. Hunger strikers, hundreds of their supporters at UC campuses, and other supportive activists and individuals throughout
We invite everyone who supports a livable future to support this effort in any way you can. There are endless ways to do so. For more information, please visit nonukeshungerstrike.blogspot.com and www.ucnuclearfree.org, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will Parrish is an alumnus of UC