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Duke students protest Palantir on #NoTechforICE student day of action

Students gathered near the Allen Building Wednesday afternoon for the latest action in an ongoing series of protests against Palantir Technologies, the data analytics firm that maintains contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Students from 16 U.S. and U.K. universities, including Duke, participated in the international #NoTechforICE student day of action. Students called on the University to restrict Palantir’s ability to recruit on campus and pressure the company to terminate its relationship with ICE.

Duke is one of 10 schools Palantir targets for recruitment, according to a Palantir spokesperson who spoke to The Chronicle in October, and there are approximately 25 Duke alumni currently employed at Palantir.

Nearly 45 minutes into the protest, students began lining up their posters in front of the Allen Building, taping them down for administrators to see as they entered and exited the building. 


Ashwin Kulshrestha


“Contract with ICE? That’s a Blue Devil Deal,” read one of the posters. “Supporting Genocide #DukeDifference,” read another. 

Senior Olivia Morales had a similarly strong message for Duke administration.

“Listen to the students of Duke who are imploring you to stop working with Palantir and stop letting them recruit on campus,” Morales said at the protest.

Students reported hearing of the protest over social media and through friends sharing the event on Facebook and Instagram. Protest organizers were also handing out flyers promoting the event. 

In the days leading to the Tuesday protest, an online petition for Duke to cut ties with Palantir amassed more than 180 signatures and stated that “Palantir has chosen profit over humanity.”

“Duke must refuse to support businesses that enable human rights abuses. We have the responsibility and the leverage to change the outcome of these tech companies,” the petition read.


Ashwin Kulshrestha


The petition also cited a number of other universities and organizations that have taken a stance against Palantir, including University of California, Berkeley, Lesbians Who Tech and the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest conference for women interested in technology.

The fight against Palantir is not new to Duke’s campus. In October, students protested Palantir at TechConnect, an annual recruiting event held on campus. Protesters stood next to the Palantir line and handed students flyers describing Palantir’s connection to ICE. This dissuaded many students from speaking with the company’s representative, according to one of the protest’s organizers.

HackDuke, the national hackathon hosted on campus, also chose to drop Palantir as a sponsor this year. Junior Sam Chan, co-director of HackDuke wrote in a message to The Chronicle that severing ties with Palantir “shouldn’t just be out of concern for image” and instead for the purpose of supporting the “people you seek to empower.”

“For us, we want our participants to support us as much as we support them, which we do by fostering an inclusive space starting with our corporate sponsorships,” Chan wrote. “For Duke, this means upholding its mission to protect its students and enable them to develop professionally and to high ethical standards.”

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