Under pressure, Palantir cancels UC Berkeley information session

Sakura Cannestra/Staff

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About 50 students and community members met at 12 p.m. to march against UC Berkeley’s ties with Silicon Valley software giant Palantir, which was set to hold a campus information session with the electrical engineering and computer sciences, or EECS, department Tuesday.

Palantir canceled its informational session Monday evening after facing pressure from students who petitioned against its contractual agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. At 2 p.m. Tuesday, the Cal Bears Against ICE’s petition to cancel the informational session with Palantir had about 700 signatures.

Palantir is one of 43 companies participating in the campus Corporate Access Program, or CAP. The tech giant pays $20,000 to gain annual recruiting access to EECS students.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof confirmed that the information session with Palantir was canceled by the company, and added that UC Berkeley does not receive profits from the tech giant.

“UC Berkeley is not investing or profiting in anything Palantir does,” Mogulof said. “Every company has a right to seek employment. No party is being coerced. Palantir’s involvement in the Corporate Access Program does not mean we endorse what they do, as is the same for any company.”

EECS professor John Canny said in an email that CAP should be a platform in which students and employers can freely interact. He added that students have the ability to make personal choices, and may decide to pursue a company to effect change.

Palantir currently sells two tools to ICE. The first, dubbed Investigative Case Management, or ICM, allows ICE to share a person’s online information with other agencies. The second tool, FALCON, is used by ICE agents to surveil people in real time.

The ICM contract, which is worth about $50 million, was renewed Aug. 20 and is set to go into effect Sept. 20. The FALCON contract is up for renewal Nov. 27 and is currently worth $42 million.

The march began at North Gate, where protesters chanted “Up up liberation, down down with deportation” and “No ICE, no Palantir, fascists are not welcome here.” Students held posters that read “No tech for ICE at UCB” and “#disarmICE.”

The protesters walked to Sproul Plaza about 12:15 p.m., where they gathered and continued to chant phrases such as “Carol Christ, you know it’s true, the crimes of ICE depend on you,” and “Palantir, you know it’s true, the crimes of ICE depend on you.”

“I can’t speak for everyone but it’s very close to me,” said campus freshman Marisol Rydberg about why they were marching. “There’s a lot of undocumented (immigrants) near my home. It’s frustrating to see that a school where I pay … a ton of money a year gives money to support organizations that support ICE.”

The march, organized by Cal Bears Against ICE, featured several speakers at Sproul Plaza. The speakers ranged from a student who considered going to the Palantir information session, to ASUC Senator Media Sina. All the speakers urged students and the campus to discontinue relations with Palantir.

Palantir could not be reached for response as of press time.

Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky, the lead organizer of the march, said students marched not only to hold Palantir accountable but also UC Berkeley, as the campus did not cancel the event even after 700 people had signed the petition.

“We view this as not a cancellation but rather a postponement. As long as Palantir is part of CAP, we’ll continue to have rallies and petitions to hold them accountable,” Mamedov-Turchinsky said.

Cal Bears Against ICE will hold another rally at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in front of the Amazon location in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union to call for UC Berkeley to suspend relations with companies that partner with ICE.

Campus students, however, are not the only audience that is disillusioned with UC Berkeley’s contracts.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that we – UC Berkeley as an institution – are normalizing the work of companies like Palantir,” said Khalid Kadir, campus lecturer of political economy, in an email to Cal Bears Against ICE. “I am totally supportive of efforts to stop them from recruiting for their company – i.e. recruiting for their unjust cause – on our campus, as well as efforts to block any funding from them reaching our campus.”

Contact Alex Casey and Angelina Wang at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article neglected to state that the march was organized by Cal Bears Against ICE, and that Liza Mamedov-Turchinsky is a member of Cal Bears Against ICE.