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March 26, 2024

Students Launch “Mudders Against Murder” To Get War Profiteering Companies Off Harvey Mudd

“You're not the only ones who have a problem with the presence of all these defense companies,” said a Mudd organizer to their fellow students.

Undercurrents staff

On March 26, students at Harvey Mudd College held a teach-in for Mudders Against Murder, a new student-led campaign to end all relationships with weapons manufacturing and defense supply companies from the school’s academic programs and career fairs. 

The Mudders Against Murder campaign sees a path forward for the college that does not involve continued war profiteering, and they are determined to make the administration heed the student body’s demands. The campaign published a petition to get weapons manufacturers and defense companies off Mudd’s campus earlier in the semester, which has already amassed more than 500+ signatures. 

“The types of industries that are represented on campus is a vital factor in the shaping of the early professional lives of the student body,” said one student leader, who asked to remain anonymous for their safety.

Corporations involved in weapons design and manufacturing have a large presence on Mudd’s campus. HMC students majoring in computer science or engineering are required to participate in Clinic, where they complete a design sponsored by a company. Past sponsors for other HMC summer projects include MIT Lincoln Laboratory — a U.S. Department of Defense research center.

Although students weren’t sure if the project was used for defense-related purposes, students organizers also shared an example of an Amazon project which asked students to design a human head-tracking device.

Defense companies, defense suppliers and weapons manufacturers also dominate Mudd career fairs. Campaign organizers have expressed concerns over how company presence affects students’ futures. 

According to the college’s LinkedIn page, Google and Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company, are among the top employers of Harvey Mudd alumni. Both companies continue to supply the Israeli government with technology and weapons, aiding in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

“Mudd is actively encouraging us to participate in defense by making these [companies] such a large percentage of our opportunities,” said another student, who asked to remain anonymous for their safety.

Even when Clinics and career fair opportunities are not outwardly tied to defense or weapons manufacturing, they often have a concealed affiliation with American imperialist violence across the globe. 

For example, Clinics for General Motors might not explicitly aid the Israeli military, but the company also works to design military vehicles such as the Flyer 72 — which an organizer reminded the audience is “actively used on the battlefield, specifically by the Israeli military” in Gaza.

“We see our school reproduce these ideologies of imperialism by normalizing the presence of defense and military companies on our campus, and encouraging us to use our knowledge to help these companies,” said a student who spoke to Undercurrents anonymously for their own safety.

Connections to violence also extend beyond just engineering majors. One computer science student described a Clinic in which they were instructed to design AI that could track a moving car.

“There’s often a level of abstraction from the consequences of your work,” they said. “What’s [the AI] gonna be used for? Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”

Students also highlighted the hypocrisy of Mudd’s mission, given the college’s affiliation with companies profiting off of Israel’s ongoing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

“Harvey Mudd’s self-admitted mission statement wants us to understand the impact of our work on society,” said an organizer at the teach-in. “But it says nothing about creating positive change with that knowledge.”

Students have expressed a desire to change which companies come to Mudd for clinics and career fairs, with a 2023-2024 summary of preferences poll showing that a large percentage of the student population is interested in renewable energy research over militarism.

Mudd students expressed wanting their college to remain consistent with their mission statement and replace defense companies with firms that strive for a positive impact and social change. Student organizers gave UNITE HERE, a labor union that sponsored a clinic in 2023, as an example of organizations that HMC should partner with instead. 

“We need to demonstrate our strength in numbers,” said a student leader. “We have to organize ourselves and no longer remain silent.”

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Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1