Monday, December 2, 2019

Hopkins’ weapons research an explosive topic worth discussing


  First, there was an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, and then The Sun printed my letter.  This was followed by an editorial in The Johns Hopkins Newsletter condemning nuclear weapons contracts.  Also inside that same newsletter was a very long article in which students and members of the faculty were questioned about the weapons contracts at the Applied Physics Laboratory.  All of this is remarkable, considering that the APL, the elephant in the room, has managed over the decades to escape media attention.  Let us keep the pressure on as we pursue the quest for a nuclear-free world.

Kagiso, Max

Hopkins’ weapons research an explosive topic worth discussing
NOV 22, 2019 | 3:50 PM
Protesters stand on 33rd St and Charles Street during the annual remembrance of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9), held near Johns Hopkins University in 2015. File.
Protesters stand on 33rd St and Charles Street during the annual remembrance of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9), held near Johns Hopkins University in 2015. File. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

I cannot thank Alicia Sanders-Zakre enough for writing the commentary, “Johns Hopkins University among schools furthering nuclear weapons” (Nov. 21). As a long-time protester of the Applied Physics Laboratory, I was thrilled that someone from a Nobel Peace Prize–winning organization raised the issue that universities are working on weapons of mass destruction which threaten the existence of Mother Earth.

I am not sure if the author knows that there have been protests of the weapons contracts at the APL for decades. For example, in 1994, I was arrested at the APL for handing out leaflets and in 1995 after being convicted, I served a 30-day sentence in the Howard County Detention Center.
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Today, the protests continue. The Baltimore Nonviolence Center hosts a demonstration outside Johns Hopkins University at 33rd and North Charles streets on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. to condemn the school’s weapons contracts.
When I get a chance to speak to students at Johns Hopkins, I warn them to be careful about working on weapons research, as that is classified. Should moral qualms cause a person to reconsider doing weapons research, he or she cannot divulge on a resume what the classified research might be. And doing classified research at a university is antithetical to the general idea that the purpose of college is to engage in an open and transparent learning experience.

I am hoping that this op-ed might generate some discussion on campus among students, professors and administrators. Why is a renowned institution which includes a world-class hospital dedicated to saving lives involved in military research designed to take lives and cause mass destruction? Those sea-launched cruise missiles which were used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq were designed by the APL.

Living in Baltimore, I am well aware of the poverty and the destitution in many parts of the city. Imagine if the funding of the noxious military research being done at the APL was ended, and the tax dollars were instead used to rebuild the infrastructure in Baltimore. Let us start a conversation.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore
Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

Copyright © 2019, Baltimore Sun
Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 1, 2019 | 40° F in Baltimore
Hopkins must take a stand against its nuclear weapons production
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | November 21, 2019  
After years of protests from students, the University continues to invest in fossil fuel companies. It has an exclusivity contract with PepsiCo, a company that uses suppliers who violate child labor laws, going against ethical and sustainable business practices. Most recently, the University was slow to end contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the government agency that is responsible for separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The University’s involvement in these contracts has been well publicized and heavily criticized by students and professors alike. Adding to this list of questionable practices is a partnership that is less well-known, but just as problematic: a contract with the U.S. government to take part in nuclear weapons research. 
On Nov. 13, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) published a report stating that 49 U.S. universities are complicit in the production of nuclear weapons. The group calls on students and faculty to “demand their universities stop helping to build weapons of mass destruction.” 
The report is scathing. It repeatedly mentions Hopkins, highlighting its involvement in creating nuclear weapons for the U.S. ICAN notes that Hopkins receives twice as much funding as any other university from the Department of Defense (DOD) [sic] largely because of the work of its renowned Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Created in 1942 for weapons development in World War II, the APL has since served as a technical resource for the U.S. government, developing numerous technologies for air and missile defense, naval warfare, computer security and space science.
In 2017, the APL received a seven year contract with the DOD [sic] for $93 million to continue the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s strategic partnership. This contributes to the multi-year contract with the agency that is now worth more than $7 billion. 
The research involved in this deal is largely classified. On the surface, this seems to contradict the University’s policy against classified research. However, the APL is exempt from this policy, as it is the only part of the University listed as a “non-academic division.”
The University continues to brand itself as an ethical research institution. However, its direct involvement with the development of weapons of mass destruction is contradictory to these actions. 
We believe that Hopkins should remove itself from all contracts associated with nuclear weapons. Instead, the APL should focus on research that does not have the same devastating and inhumane implications that nuclear weapons do. 
Those who support the University’s work with nuclear weapons may argue that Hopkins receives a high monetary benefit from their partnership with the Department of Defense [sic]. They may also claim that Hopkins, which is just one of nearly 50 universities conducting research, can’t make any difference on its own. Even if Hopkins ends the contracts, why would other schools do the same?
These arguments are valid, and we understand the concerns that are associated with terminating the contracts. It is true that Hopkins receives a hefty sum for its involvement with the DOD [sic]. According to ICAN, “the funding ceiling for its ongoing contract was extended beyond $7 billion” in 2019. 
There is also a turning tide against nuclear weapons development across the world. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, introduced to the United Nations in 2017, bans the development and use of nuclear weapons by signatories. So far, 122 countries have signed on, though the U.S. and most western countries have not. If Hopkins and other reputable institutions take a stand against nuclear weapons development, it will send a sign to the world at large that we want to move on from using these weapons of mass destruction.
Large scale change starts small, and it starts with us. We encourage students to take a stand for what they believe in. As with any other issue, there are multiple ways to tell Hopkins that it’s time for a change. On their website, ICAN outlines three ways that students can speak out. They recommend publicizing the issue, demanding transparency from universities and calling on them to end their work with nuclear weapons.
We know that there’s no guarantee that Hopkins will end its contracts and stop working on nuclear weapons development. But by speaking out, we can initiate the change. Activists who are part of sustainability and pro-peace groups can protest against nuclear weapons production. Students who are majoring in STEM fields can take a stand against working at the associated departments at the APL, and should be aware of the larger implications of any research they are involved in. All students can tell Hopkins that we demand an explanation and that we take issue with the greater mission behind the research.
The University’s mission statement, in part, mentions that its goal is “To educate its students and cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.” We hope that the University will refocus its attention on these goals. If Hopkins turns away from nuclear weapons research, other institutions may follow in our path. Making the world a safer place is the best way to bring the benefits of our discovery to everyone.
© Copyright 2019 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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