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New UMass Group Works to Oust Raytheon From Campus

The anti-militarism group Dissenters has spotlighted the school’s ties to weapons manufacturers.

Protesters from the UMass Amherst chapter of the anti-militarism organization Dissenters march on campus on April 21, 2023.
Protesters from the UMass Amherst chapter of the anti-militarism organization Dissenters march on campus on April 21, 2023. (Submitted photo)

By Fiona Bautista

AMHERST — Enthusiastic chants ring throughout campus, heard through the open windows of buildings, sparking intrigued murmurs among the students in class. Handmade signs with statements of varying outrage are held high, shaking as protesters cheer on the student speaking in front of them. 

“As Dissenters, we believe a different future is possible.”

The April 21 protest, organized by a new campus group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst called Dissenters, had one simple demand for the school.

“Young people want no part of Raytheon’s blood money,” the group said in a statement on social media. “We are taking back our resources from war elites, and demanding that our institutions join us on the right side of history.”

Dissenters is an anti-militarism organization relatively new to UMass Amherst, with other chapters around the United States. Founded in 2017, the UMass chapter was incorporated early in the fall 2022 semester and has quickly made itself known to the UMass community, particularly because of its opposition to the university’s partnership with the Virginia-based aerospace and defense manufacturer RTX Corporation, which is better known by its previous name, Raytheon Technologies Corporation. 

As an organization, Dissenters has come up with a list of demands for the school.The most substantial: “Get Raytheon and other war profiteers completely out of UMass.” 

Other demands urge the school to end recruitment on campus for weapons manufacturers, cease doing research for Raytheon, rid the curriculum of any influence from the company and stop partnerships with corporations. 

Dissenters’ growing footprint on campus comes as the university is devoting new resources to building relationships with corporations. On May 24, the university announced in an email the creation of a new position, assistant vice chancellor for corporate engagement, to be filled by Carl Rust.

The position serves as the “central point of contact and coordination for university engagement with industry,” and aims to increase sponsored research and professional opportunities for the UMass community, according to the email from the school’s Office of Research and Engagement.

As some students question whether these corporate relationships are in the school’s best interest, university spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said that the university “regularly works with industry partners” to further the school’s mission of conducting research that advances knowledge.

To support this critical and longstanding element of UMass Amherst’s mission, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Corporate Engagement will help expand meaningful research, career, and professional opportunities for students, alumni and faculty as they find best suited to their own personal and professional backgrounds and aspirations,” Blaguszewski said.


The birth of the UMass chapter of Dissenters is credited to rising juniors, Arsema Kifle and Toby Paperno.

Kifle earned a spot in Dissenters’ recently launched fellowship program, which “trains U.S.-based college students on the fundamentals of anti-militarism organizing, and provides deep leadership development, coaching, and community for a dedicated cohort of student organizers across the country.”

A group of students founded the national organization under the same name in Chicago in 2017. Described as an anti-military, youth-led movement, the group primarily organizes students at universities across the country. 

Dissenters receives its funding from the Center for Third World Organizing and individual donations, according to Peyton Wilson, the communications manager for the group.

With a plus-one spot available for each fellow, Kifle and Paperno — who had previously done organizing work — were inspired to start the UMass chapter together.

The group advertised on Instagram, formed alliances with established leftist groups on campus and quickly gained traction from there. 

Following its conception, members have been busy arranging protests and community-building events, collecting signatures for petitions and approaching students and faculty members to discuss their mission. Their promotional flyers cover every corner of the campus – not just the designated bulletin boards.

Katie New, a recent UMass graduate, first heard about Dissenters through Instagram. As a participating member of the university’s chapter of the organization Students for Justice in Palestine, they continued to hear about the new organization due to the development of alliances between the groups. After attending their first meeting, New has become an active member. 

“I’ve watched it get so much bigger and it’s so exciting,” they said. The group aims to “organize against and end the university’s war profiteering on campus.” And it’s that mission that has the organization’s focus set on Raytheon specifically.

Raytheon is the largest producer of guided missiles in the world, according to the professional aviation and aerospace network, Aerocontact. The official UMass Amherst Resistance Studies Initiative website – a program at the university focused on “liberationist social sciences” that analyze worldwide activism – states that the weapons company has been working with the flagship campus for over four decades. Their partnership began in 1980 through the Advanced Studies Program. 

With these connections to the university, Raytheon has become a prominent figure in three areas of study at UMass – the Isenberg School of Management, the College of Engineering and the Manning College of Information & Computer Sciences. 

As a partner to the university, Raytheon can recruit directly from UMass and fund research opportunities and project development. Some concerned students have claimed that Raytheon also influences the curriculum.

However, despite their research funding being one of the most publicized benefits of this partnership, the agreements between the two parties that detail the research collaborations are not wholly transparent. 

The official master funding agreement between Raytheon and the university — obtained through a public records request — is heavily redacted, removing a significant amount of information regarding “inventions and patents” and “rights and licenses.” These redactions limit the public’s ability to understand what regulations the university may have agreed upon and even what kind of research the company is funding.

The UMass Dissenters also submitted a public records request for the agreements between the university and Raytheon but say they yielded similar results. 


In response to the outcry regarding the partnership between the company and the school, UMass released a general statement to address Isenberg’s relationships with corporations earlier in the fall 2022 and spring 2023 school year. 

“The Isenberg School of Management works with a wide variety of companies that want to provide internship and job opportunities to interested students,” the statement said. “Isenberg also works with a number of companies, like Raytheon, to provide discounted graduate educational opportunities to employees, some of whom are residents of the Commonwealth. These partnerships support our mission to offer state-of-the-art education that is accessible and affordable to all learners.” 

UMass has continued to work with Raytheon amid the public calls to end the partnership. 

“I’m not aware of any conversations about changing any structures of our corporate relationships,” said Krista Carothers, Isenberg’s associate director of communications in the marketing and communications department. 

When asked about details of the school’s partnership with Raytheon, post-graduation jobs that students land at the weapons manufacturer and the school’s reaction to the protests, Carothers often said she did not have enough substantial information to properly comment. 

While New has said that many UMass faculty avoid discussions of the school’s partnerships with companies profiting from armed conflicts, Dissenters members say that they have had better luck with the university’s engineering department. 

According to New, the engineering department’s administration seemed to listen sympathetically to their cause. They said that it feels impossible to disentangle the department and Raytheon because their ties are so deep.

“But the faculty does have power, even if they don’t realize it,” New said. 

Scott Civjan, an associate dean for undergraduate affairs in UMass’s College of Engineering, has had several discussions with students and faculty about the college’s relationship with Raytheon, the different perceptions of those ties and the concerns protest groups have raised.

“I support the right of people getting information out and the more informed somebody is about a company they’re interviewing for, that’s very worthwhile,” Civjan said. “When discussion is shut down, that becomes counterproductive.”

Continuing their push for change, Dissenters recently organized a protest on campus to “Get Raytheon Out.”This mission goes far beyond the university. The UMass Dissenters are just one of several chapters of a nationwide movement. 

One of the overarching organization’s most recent achievements is its #BoeingArmsGenocide campaign. 

Focused on the Boeing Company, which “develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems,” the campaign states that “Boeing makes nearly $100 billion of profit from war and militarized violence every year.” Recently, Dissenters celebrated a victory when organizers garnered the attention of city officials by highlighting the corporation’s alleged inability to fulfill its promises of providing jobs in the city of Chicago. Shortly after, Boeing decided to move its corporate headquarters out of Chicago after receiving $60 million in tax breaks from the city over the previous 20 years. Those tax breaks had expired, and Boeing reportedly declined to file for a $2 million tax reimbursement before moving.

Toward the end of 2022, the national organization was able to hold one of its first large gatherings. According to Wilson, this event is credited for the start of numerous chapters, including at UMass Amherst. 

With approximately 25 chapters at different universities in the United States, Dissenters organizers say they are consistently celebrating small victories. 

“We understand that we are just one wave in an entire ocean of anti-military organizations,” Wilson said. “If there’s a victory, it’s a victory for all of us.”

At UMass, Dissenters is gearing up for another year of work. Hoping to continue the upward momentum, the group aims to create a campaign timeline to “put pressure on the people who have decision-making power to get Raytheon out.”

“We do have the power to make a difference in the world if we come together,” Paperno said. “Our goal is to make UMass a powerful community that is not controlled by money.”

Fiona Bautista is an investigative journalist studying at University of Massachusetts Amherst. She can be reached at

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