A group of University of California students and their supporters on Thurs-day called on the university to get out of the weapons business at its three national laboratories.

The students, members of the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California, simultaneously decried the start of the war in Iraq and the university’s role in research and development of nuclear weapons at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore labs, as well as unclassified beam science at Lawrence Berkeley lab distantly tied to weapons research.

“We will change the University of California from an institution of war to an institution of peace,” UCLA student Michael Cox vowed during a news conference outside UC headquarters on Franklin Street. “Last night, I could feel my stomach churn and simultaneously feel the people of Baghdad burn.”

Cox and students from four other UC campuses, including Berkeley, spoke in front of about a dozen supporters.

Signs reading “Stop the UC war machine” and “No hate, no war” were propped against a nearby mailbox. One observer scrawled a message on a sheet of white copy paper: “This site is in the business of weapons of mass destruction.”

Students hand-delivered a letter demanding UC “begin the process for immediate disarmament of the national labs, as required by Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

UC’s involvement in the weapons labs is “an issue over which there has been honest disagreement almost since the inception of the partnership between the university and the federal government,” UC spokes-man Michael Reese said.

Most recently, the management of Los Alamos has been the subject of a congressional investigation into charges of fraud, cover-up and theft.

1The university is paid $17 million for a lab management office, staff and other costs. It also receives a $17.5 million “performance fee” that, if not expended on fines, penalties or legal fees, the university typically returns to the labs as discretionary research money.

But Reese said the laboratories contribute important research in the areas of homeland security and health care, in addition to their role in weapons research and development.

“It’s a complex subject,” Reese said, “and there are many sides to this issue, not the least of which is, if not the University of California, then who?”
* Staff writer Ian Hoffman contributed to this report.