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Tech by VICE

Students at 16 Universities Are Protesting Palantir’s Presence on Campuses

UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon are among the campuses that accept funds from the data mining company that sells its tech to ICE.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Nov 19 2019, 2:46pm

Mijente

It’s no secret that many universities have cozy relationships with Palantir. The data mining company that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is known to recruit on campuses across the country. And students are not too happy about it.

On Tuesday, organizers at 16 universities, including UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and Georgia Tech, will protest, march, and flyer their campuses under the banner #NoTechForICE. The demonstrators are demanding that their universities stop accepting money from Palantir, and that Palantir drop its FALCON contract with ICE, which is up for renewal on November 27.

“We see it as our responsibility, given we’re on a tech campus and Palantir recruits heavily here, to hold our university accountable,” said Bonnie Fan, a master’s student in public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and a lead organizer in the demonstrations on her campus. “We are demanding that they stop being complicit in the Palantir pipeline.”

In August, ICE utilized Palantir’s FALCON system—a data management platform that helps immigration agents identify and locate migrants—to detain 680 workers in Morton, Mississippi—the largest single-state ICE raid on record. Last year, ICE also used Palantir’s FALCON smart phone app in raids targeting 7-Eleven stores across the United States.

While tech workers at Amazon, Microsoft, and GitHub have been in the spotlight for organizing against their employer’s relationships with U.S. immigration agencies, the #NoTechforICE movement has also spread to the universities where those tech companies recruit.

In September, 2,500 students across 30 campuses pledged not to work for Palantir, signing a petition circulated by the immigrant rights group Mijente. Meanwhile, students organized their own campus protests with a few big successes. Palantir cancelled an on-campus recruitment session at Berkeley, after 700 students and faculty signed a petition calling for the company to pull out of the session. Duke and Yale’s hackathons dropped Palantir as a corporate sponsor after students protested both events. Brown also put its corporate partnership with Palantir temporarily on hold. (Palantir pays Brown at least $15,000 a year to recruit on campus, while Stanford accepts $24,000.)

Georgia Tech’s demonstration is being led by a group of students affiliated with the campus chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). “I have a vested interest in making sure tech isn’t unethical,” Ezra Goss, a PhD student in computer science, told Motherboard. “Palantir is a huge recruiter on our campus and at our career fair.”

Unlike schools like Stanford and UC Berkeley, which tout it progressive values, Goss notes that undocumented students have been banned from attending Georgia Tech and other Georgia public universities. “This makes it even harder for us to make our case to the school,” he said.

Tuesday’s protest at UC Berkeley will take place outside the university’s on-campus Amazon store and pick-up hub, located in the student union. (Palantir, coincidentally, pays Amazon millions of dollars to store data on its cloud platform.)

Olivia Nouriani, a math major at UC Berkeley, says her group Cal Bears Against ICE selected the site because of Amazon’s ties to Palantir and both companies’ “strong corporate grip” on the school. “It’s really hypocritical to take Palantir’s money,” she told Motherboard. “Especially when Berkeley was the first sanctuary city in the United States, and our chancellor has defended undocumented students.”

Palantir pays the university $20,000 a year to recruit in Berkeley’s computer science and electrical engineering departments.

“Palantir is part of our computer science corporate access program,” Nouriani said. “It has its fingers on a lot of campuses. Universities enable Palantir to do the work it does. But without their talent pipeline, they are nothing, so we are trying to hit them where it really hurts.”

Tagged:
immigration
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Georgia Tech
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UC Berkeley
carnegie mellon