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Dow Comes to Berkeley, Sparking Student Protest

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Dow Chemical, the company whose very name sparked violent student protests during the Vietnam War era, is coming back to the UC Berkeley campus. 

This time, the controversial firm has teamed up with Haas School of Business and the College of Chemistry to launch a “Sustainable Products and Solutions” program which kicks off with a faculty meeting and lunch this morning (Tuesday). 

And just like in the 1960s protesters will be on hand. 

While the focus on those protests of yore was the company’s role as manufacturer of napalm for the fire bombs used to blast the terrain of Southeast Asia, this week’s protesters are looking at the company’s response to another disaster. 

Organized by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, protesters are targeting the company’s activities in India. 

A Dec. 3, 1984, explosion at a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, killed as many as 8,000 people in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. 

Another 100,000 people, many elderly and children, sustained permanent injuries. 

When Dow bought Union Carbide six years ago, the company refused to accept any liabilities stemming from the disaster. 

The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley adopted a 2004 resolution asking the company to accept responsibility and clean up the site, where soil and groundwater are still contaminated. 

In September, Dow sent Tony Kingsbury to the Haas Center for Responsible Business to launch the new program, where he will serve as executive director. 

The program will focus on research aimed at developing sustainable chemistry and products, and additional corporate funding is being sought. 

According to the school’s website, Kingsbury has worked for the company for 24 years, most recently at corporate headquarters in Michigan where he headed a task force on plastics sustainabilty and global industry affairs. 

The program’s dedication begins at 11 a.m. in the school’s Wells Fargo room. 

One of the organizers of today’s protest is Kamal Kapadia, a doctoral student who has also been active in the student movement criticizing the university’s $500 million research pact with BP. 

“There is considerable opposition developing among faculty,” she said. “And last semester the student Energy and Resources Collaborative returned a $1,000 grant from Dow.”