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Northern New Mexico College: A Relationship with LANL at What Cost? via La Jicarita

Last week (September 10) La Jicarita ran an article about the controversy at Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) in Española over the direction in which the college is headed, moving from a “career tech” curriculum that serves the local community to an “academic” one that serves a more regional base. Many of the faculty have voted no confidence in the administration, headed by Nancy “Rusty” Barceló, that is spearheading this transition they believe is more beholden to corporate interests than community ones. Twenty-five percent of the full-time faculty has been fired or has resigned.

In that article we also ran an open letter from Dr. Patricia Perea, one of the fired faculty, which laid out her concerns about these changes at NNMC and also about the college’s connections with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Perea also raised this issue in relationship to the MALCS 2014 Summer Institute at Northern New Mexico College. MALCS is the acronym for Mujeras Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, a Chicana/Native feminist organization that works for social and environmental justice. In another open letter to the community Perea talks about how she was removed from the MALCS site committee because of her questioning of the sponsorship of the MALCS Summer Institute by corporations connected to LANL and the nuclear industrial complex. While the MALCS Summer Institute has come and gone for 2014, it’s not too late to “pay attention” to the the vast network of military and nuclear relationships of LANL contractor and MALCS sponsor Day and Zimmermann, and its relationship to NNMC.

This is her letter:

17 July 2014

Dear Colleagues, Community Members, Family and Friends:

Once again, I write this letter with care, love, respect, and not a little fear. Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS) is an organization I hold very close to my heart.
[…]
I did not grow up in northern New Mexico. I did; however, grow up in Canyon, Texas. Therefore, I know I have the experience to speak to a large part of the Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) issue. For over thirty years, my mother worked at Pantex (a nuclear weapons facility). We had great benefits, job security, excellent union representation. Pantex has been a significant employer for much of the populations of color in the Texas Panhandle. It does come at great cost. There are widespread health issues – thyroid cancers, thyroid imbalances, lymphoma, blood cancers, various tumors, etc. When I taught at Brown University, we discussed national areas of sacrifice. Many students were not familiar with this term. I named the effects of living in these areas. To emphasize these effects, I listed every member of my family who has been diagnosed with cancer. To me, this was significant, but nor particularly exceptional (at least not exceptional in the Panhandle). The students were stunned. How could that much cancer happen to one family across generations?

There is no small amount of evidence that links cancer to the radiation produced by nuclear energy and its accouterments. We all know the cancer rates around the Trinity Site in Alamogordo, New Mexico are astounding. We know the effects of the major crises like Chernobyl or Fukushima. Organizations such as Honor Our Pueblo Existence (H.O.P.E.) led by Santa Clara Pueblo elder Marian Naranjo address these issues and struggle to make LANL accountable on a daily basis. I voice concern over the sponsorship of the MALCS 2014 Institute by Day and Zimmerman S.O.C. Los Alamos knowing that it is a double-edged sword. Los Alamos National Labs supports both the community and NNMC in innumerable ways. In just as many ways, it harms.

This we know. But I ask you to consider thinking about Day and Zimmermann, the corporation that provides Los Alamos National Labs with both management and security services. For over 100 years, this corporation (based out of Pennsylvania) has worked in the fields of energy production (oil, nuclear), weapons production, weapons disposal and security management.

For me and for the members of our communities who live in national areas of sacrifice; live near or cross the U.S.-México border, serve in the military, it is imperative we inform ourselves of MALCS’ sponsors. It is imperative we know this. As working class women, many of us have family who served in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us suffer the health consequence of exposure to herbicides and radiation. I mentioned cancer above, but there are incredibly high amounts of immunodeficiency diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in our communities of color, particularly among women.
[…]
Once again, I am aware of the complexity of the issue. Corporations such as Day and Zimmermann provide good jobs to many of our rural communities, but at what cost?

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Posted in *English.

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