As The University of Tennessee Knoxville’s longest standing environmental organization, Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville (SPEAK) has consistently campaigned for decisive environmental action for people and the planet.
An issue has recently been brought to our attention that in early December of 2020, Randy Boyd, President of the University of Tennessee, partnered with Texas A&M University to bid on the management and operations contract for the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas.
If successful in receiving the bid, this contract would make our university a manufacturer of the nuclear weapons of mass destruction declared illegal under international law by the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
This move was not greatly publicized and thus the general student body is unaware of how UT’s dollars will potentially be used for destruction. As the university reckons with a call for divestment in other arenas, notably the campaign mounted by Fossil Free TN to move the university’s endowments away from funding the fossil fuel industry, there is a growing movement of students who demand accountability and transparency regarding where the university’s money is being spent.
The time is ripe for students to use our voices to urge President Boyd to reconsider this bid.
Per the Vol Vision Strategic Plan, UT’s primary mission is “to move forward the frontiers of human knowledge and enrich and elevate the citizens of the state of Tennessee, the nation, and the world.” The production of nuclear weapons neither enriches nor elevates the citizens of Tennessee, the nation, or the world.
122 nations of the world voted in 2017 to approve the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which recognizes “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons.” The use of nuclear weapons is an existential threat to the future of humankind, the environment, food security, the global economy, and more. The deployment of nuclear weapons would not be a move forward in any respect, but an irreversible step backwards.
As one can see, the manufacturing of nuclear weapons is incompatible with UT’s mission; the funding of nuclear weapons creation has no place within an educational establishment. As students, we must hold our institution accountable and call on Randy Boyd to reconsider.
The club's page is available at https://volink.utk.edu/organization/speak
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