News, University News

Students protest University ties to Kanders ’79

Warren Kanders Must Go criticizes University connections to Safariland Group owner

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, October 21, 2019

Safariland manufactures law enforcement supplies that have reportedly been used on migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Students disrupted the start of a Family Weekend campus tour Saturday afternoon, unveiling banners and reciting demands that the University must sever all ties with Warren Kanders ’79 P’23, who owns law enforcement and military supply manufacturer the Safariland Group.

The demonstration began shortly after 3 p.m. when nine students, all of whom are members of student collective Warren Kanders Must Go, climbed the steps of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center and approached a tour group predominantly composed of current students’ family members. Two more students poked their heads out of a second-floor window in Faunce and released a banner reading: “Brown University Sponsored By Tear Gas.”

“At Brown, our Protest and Demonstration Guidelines make clear that protest is a necessary and acceptable means of expression within the Brown community — but that protest becomes unacceptable when it obstructs the basic exchange of ideas, disrupts or materially interferes with the educational functions of the University,” wrote Brian Clark, director of news and editorial development, in an email to The Herald. Clark also wrote that if a protest were to violate University guidelines, it would prompt the school to “review the circumstances in the context of the Code of Student Conduct.”

Saturday’s protest follows a series of actions led by members of Warren Kanders Must Go. In addition to disrupting the tour, students distributed fliers at a Friday afternoon Family Weekend event entitled “Environmental Change, Societal Challenges and the Power of Financial Investments,” hosted at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. Kanders, who could not be reached for comment by press time, is a member of the advisory council for the IBES. Along with his wife, Allison Kanders, he has also financially supported a Brown Arts Initiative lecture series since 2017.

Kanders stepped down as vice chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art this summer over protests about his company’s sale of tear gas, The Herald previously reported.  Safariland Group sells tear gas that law enforcement officials have reportedly used on migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, among other incidents worldwide.

In a February 2018 letter to The Herald, Kanders affirmed his commitment to the University community and defended Safariland and its products.

“Our less lethal products are designed to give law enforcement crowd control options in dangerous situations,” Kanders wrote. “As with any product, ultimate responsibility for its use falls on the individuals involved in their use.”

“We reject the false choice between meeting protesters with tear gas or with bullets,” Nina Wolff Landau ’20 told the tour group Saturday. “The solution is not controlling a crowd through violence, it is addressing the systemic failures that protesters are calling out.”

Behind her, other demonstrators held a large banner simply lettered: “Warren Kanders Must Go.”

After about a minute, student tour guides proceeded with their introductions, urging protesters to move, saying they were on a tight schedule. “I wasn’t sure what to do,” Tyler Zickmund ’22, who has been a tour guide since the spring, told The Herald.

Zickmund’s parents were on the tour, and he noted no one in the tour group brought up the disruption during the tour.

Demonstrators continued to recite demands as the tour guides gave their introductions. Beyond cutting all ties with Kanders, the collective of students are calling for the University to establish “a transparent, ethical gift policy,” Wolff Landau told the group.

Brickson Diamond ’93 and Bernadette Aulestia ’94 — both members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body — expanded on the University’s gift policy in a letter to The Herald last month. “Brown does not accept gifts if it’s evident the proceeds were obtained illicitly, and only accepts gifts that are aligned with Brown priorities and do not carry strings dictating educational or research decisions,” they wrote.

In a Feb. 21 op-ed in The Herald, President Christina Paxson P’19 evoked Brown’s current gift policy, adopted in 2002, as the standard she and the University abide by: “Gifts will be accepted so long as they are found to contribute to the approved purposes of the University.”

Members of Warren Kanders Must Go have disputed the president’s response, demanding that the University impliment and publicize a more stringent ethical line for gifts with input from students, faculty and staff.

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  1. Pouncing on parents and students trying to enjoy Family Weekend? When this man’s son is nearby? Thoughtless, time-wasting, and a poor representation of what it means to be a Brown student. Is this group aware that the majority of Kanders’ products save human lives – protective equipment for first responders, bulletproof vests, bomb suits? For such intelligent young men and women, they ought to do more research.

  2. It is really sad when protestors like these ruin the power of protest for those with legitimate grievances! What short-sighted, naive, uneducated young adults these are to think that they understand and know how much tear gas has helped law enforcement safely protect the liberties and privileges that they themselves take for GRANTED. It is so incredibly sad that they are choosing this fight when they could actually be using their free time and energy saying thank you to those donors who improve their lives on campus and fighting against activities that actually are illegal or corrupt, instead of law-abiding, successful business people whose only “crime” is succeeding at what they do. These are America’s best and brightest? Shameful.

  3. Haley Walles says:

    So sad that these students felt the need to embarrass their University, especially in front of the families who are just trying to enjoy their weekend with their kids. I am definitely all for “fighting the man” but it has a time and place. A campus “Family day”, is not the time or the place.

  4. Intersectional Artist says:

    Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Jerry Saltz originally shared the opinion of these students, and was a vocal proponent of censuring Warren Kanders. Then he declared himself to have been horribly wrong, and I encourage others to think a second time as well. He realized that convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s retinue was filled with sexual predators who were also fierce advocates of left-wing notions of morality, as opposed to simply upholding the law. The fact that convicted fugitive rapist Roman Polanski could be celebrated by leftist Hollywood because of his leftism, along with other leftist sexual predators such as Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Kevin Spacey and Bill Clinton, indicates that the redefinition of “illicit” to include the manufacture of a perfectly legal product is at least partly a smoke screen to protect these politically correct sexual predators. Inflation of the term “unethical” dilutes its impact just as inflation of the currency does in the realm of economics. Jerry Saltz is right: our standard for acceptable donations should be adherence to the law. Epstein was a convicted criminal; Kanders did absolutely nothing illegal. People who try to blur that line are on the side of the sexual predators.

  5. Kanders’ Safariland products are primarily defensive, e.g. bomb disposal gear. Even his supposed “sinful” product, tear gas, REDUCES police killings. Every hear of Tiananmen square? “Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundred to several thousand”

  6. Brown U parent says:

    As a parent of college-age children, I am shocked by the cost of a year at Brown: $55,466, and rising 3.8% annually (talk about “unsustainable!”) Through their temper tantrum, these brats spat on the rare person who is lowering that cost through his generosity (Warren Kanders), and on their parents who foot the bill.

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