On Wednesday afternoon, the University of California Student Association, which represents students across all UC campuses, released a letter signed by all nine Associated Students External Vice Presidents demanding the UC cut financial ties with the Thirty Meter Telescope project.  

The call for divestment comes two months after students across the UC system began raising their voices in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). The project, which has sustained numerous delays due to protests over its planned location on native Hawaiian land, drew criticism from UC Santa Barbara students in the form of petitions — which condemned TMT’s operations — and demands for UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang to resign from his position as chair of the board of governors of TMT. 

Chancellor Yang serves as the chair of the board of governors of TMT. Nexus file photo 

The recent statement from University of California Student Association (UCSA) begins with a criticism of the UC’s operations on native land: “other than an occasional nod” to indigenous populations, “there have not been the kind of substantial steps necessary for meaningful reparations,” the letter read. 

The letter goes on to expand on its demands, asking the UC to cease funding for TMT and for any faculty or staff sitting on the project’s board of governors and science advisory committee to “speak out against the exploitation of Mauna Kea.” 

“It is unacceptable that an institution that claims to pride itself on respecting indigenous voices and uplifting students from diverse backgrounds would continue to support a project against the wishes of the land’s stewards,” the letter read. 

Daevionne Beasley, a third-year sociology major and UCSB’s Associated Students External Vice President for Statewide Affairs, said the UC’s involvement with TMT puts UCSB students in “a really tough spot.”

Beasley noted that students are concerned that they may be “scrutinized” for their connection to UCSB due to the university’s involvement in the project. He also emphasized Yang’s involvement with TMT and explained that students who aren’t in favor of TMT’s construction feel pitted against institutions that support the cause. 

Beasley explained that the letter initially took shape at the UCSA August board meeting, where Mark Green, a UC Berkeley legislative director, gave a presentation regarding the UC’s involvement with TMT which later became the framework for the demands. 

Following the August board meeting, Beasley said Green asked him to hand-deliver the letter to Yang, which he plans to do soon. 

Beasley said he is also working with Christian Ornelas, external vice president for local affairs and fourth-year environmental studies major. The two are currently in contact with the UCSB American Indian Student Association to “get their input on the situation” and “[see] what exactly my office can do to help them,” Beasley said. 

Despite the backlash against TMT, Beasley maintains that the project will go on “with or without Chancellor Yang’s involvement,” but has hope in the power of student activism and its potential to stunt the UC’s role in the project.

“The main solution would just be to come together and to really listen to the indigenous communities here and over in Hawaii,” he said. 

“There’s beauty in activism and students using their voices because it gets things done.” 

UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada could not be immediately reached for comment.

A version of this article appeared on pg. 4 of the Sept. 26, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.

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