NU Dissenters pushes against militarism, demands trustees divest from war


Photo courtesy of NU Dissenters

The banner NU Dissenters hung across The Arch last Wednesday morning. It reads “DIVEST or DEATH: WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?”

Isabel Funk, Assistant Campus Editor

Six Northwestern students gathered early the morning of Oct. 27 to post flyers around the Technological Institute and the Donald P. Jacobs Center. They also hung a banner across The Arch.

The flyers condemned two Board of Trustees members — Dennis Muilenburg, the former CEO of Boeing, and Phebe Novakovic, the current CEO of General Dynamics. The banner read: “DIVEST or DEATH: WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?”

The students are part of NU Dissenters, a group of students that formed in winter 2020 and revived in September by a SESP sophomore and a Medill junior, who chose to remain anonymous because of safety concerns. Their mission is to “stigmatize” war and persuade the University to divest from warmaking institutions and invest in life-giving institutions.

“War-profiteering companies and the war industry have stolen and robbed so much from us including our safety, our security, the Earth,” the SESP sophomore said. “Right now, war is not stigmatized. It’s praised … It’s romanticized and sensationalized all the time in the media, as well as film.”

NU’s branch of Dissenters is calling on the University to invest in support for students. The possibilities are endless, the sophomore said, and some specific goals could include funding stipends for lower-income students and upgrading campus facilities and infrastructure.

The sophomore added that Dissenters stands against surveillance and policing on campus.

As the students hung the banner, the sophomore said University Police officers pulled up in a police vehicle and began “harassing” the students, so the students dispersed.

Four hours later, the sophomore said someone had taken the banner down.

NU Dissenters also attempted to enter a Sept. 22 Board of Trustees meeting. The Medill junior said UP was called about a “noise complaint” when the group knocked on the door and read its demands that the Board of Trustees divest from militarism and death.

University spokesperson Jon Yates told The Daily the University hasn’t received demands from the group yet. Officers who responded to the Oct. 27 gathering followed University procedures, Yates said. He added that NU encourages free speech and asks protestors to adhere to the University’s demonstration policy.

NU Dissenters’ actions last week were part of a national Divest from Death Week of Action hosted by the national Dissenters organization, which has developed over the last few years. Three Chicago-based organizers co-direct Dissenters, which builds teams of young people focused on advocating for divestment from militarism and supports university chapters across the United States.

After Wednesday’s actions, the SESP sophomore said NU Dissenters received interest from six more students. Building a base of youth leaders is one of its goals, she added. She said she’s seen a positive response on campus overall, but some students “were ripping down the flyers.”

NU Dissenters said it’s focused on demanding the University divest from five main “war-profiteering” companies: Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

After NU Dissenters was initially created, members of the group realized many of its goals aligned with NU Community Not Cops, and the organizations merged, according to a SESP senior who originally helped found NU Dissenters. They said too many resources go toward war rather than life-giving institutions.

“Seeing how our world is facing a climate catastrophe and knowing that the U.S. military is one of the largest — if not the largest — single polluter, there’s so many connections between militarism and the environment and racial injustice and gender injustice and classism,” the senior said.

The national organization of Dissenters offers a Demilitarize Organizing Fellowship for Black, Indigenous and people of color college students. The SESP sophomore said she applied to be a fellow because she considers herself a student of abolition.

The Medill junior said she sees one of NU Dissenters’ main goals as reframing the narrative around war and shifting students’ perspectives on it.

“We’re not just worried about ‘destroying’ things — we want to rebuild something new,” the Medill junior said. “Dissenters is a movement that is rooted in love. It’s all coming from a place of wanting to care for each other, for us to feel accountable to each other, for us to stand in solidarity with those all across the world who are being affected by U.S. imperialism and colonialism and war.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabeldfunk

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