One of the hunger strikers protesting University of California management of nuclear labs was taken to the emergency room Saturday after four days without solid foods.
Third-year College of Creative Studies art major Suman Kasturia was taken to the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Saturday night for excessive vomiting and stomach pain caused by her abstention from food. She was released in stable condition three hours after being admitted.
Kasturia is one of 44 students UC-wide currently engaging in the hunger strike, which began last Wednesday as part of an effort to pressure the UC Regents into canceling the UC’s contract with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Both labs conduct nuclear weapons research for the U.S. military and help maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
Some protesters have vowed to continue the hunger strike until their demands are met, while others will conclude their fasting at the end of the week, coinciding with the regents’ regularly scheduled meeting, which many plan to attend. Today, however, protesters will rally in front of Cheadle Hall at noon, to be followed at 8:30 tonight by a teach-in hosted by two UCSB anthropology professors.
As they have since last Wednesday, the protesters will continue to camp out in tents set up on the front lawn of Cheadle Hall.
The hospital staff treating Kasturia informed her that low levels of potassium in her system caused her illness, she said. Although they advised that she watch her vitamin intake, Kasturia said she is continuing to refuse solid foods.
“My visit really has not affected me,” Kasturia said of her trip to the ER. “The people at the hospital respected me and what I was doing and, if anything, it probably helped me.”
Students, faculty and members of Associated Students have had mixed reactions to the hunger strike. While the administration advised caution, it was willing to turn off sprinklers near where the strikers were camped out and leave nearby bathrooms open late for the strikers who chose to camp.
Meanwhile, at its meeting last Wednesday, A.S. Legislative Council decided not to lend student government support to the hunger strikers. However, on April 26 the council voted to support the creation of a student oversight committee of the UC-managed nuclear research laboratories.
Sociology professor John Foran, who will attend today’s rally, said he hopes to bring members of the UCSB community to this discussion.
“I think that the community should take interest in this issue because it’s not going to go away,” Foran said. “What the hunger strikers are proposing is of historic significance. It’s a big deal.”
Whitney Walberg, a second-year environmental science major involved in the hunger strike, said that while she was feeling tired and unable to do her normal amount of schoolwork, her commitment to the cause has not waned.
“Obviously, there will be times when I get hungry, but my experience has really shown me that this is a mind over matter thing,” Walberg said. “The regents are here for us, and we’re showing them that we are serious.”