Victory for Liverpool students

Banner that reads "Freedom for Palestine" in the colours of the Palestinian flag.

After a successful campaign by the University of Liverpool Friends of Palestine (ULFOP) and CAAT groups, students voted in support of a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) policy in a preferendum last week.

The Liverpool Guild of Students now officially supports the Palestinian-led BDS movement and has a mandate to lobby the university to do the same – particularly in reference to their involvement with companies such as BAE Systems that supply arms to Israel.

The motion for the BDS policy won by a landslide. The scale of the victory clearly shows that a large majority of the student body is, or has been made, aware of Israel’s apartheid regime and oppression of the Palestinians, and is prepared to make a stand against it. Over a thousand students voted – a fantastic turnout, and a debate in the run-up to the vote filled a hall.

Kitty from ULFOP highlighted these points. She says “a turnout of over 1000 was unprecedented and the huge number of students that voted yes to adopt the BDS motion sends a clear message to the Union, University and beyond that we do not want to attend an institution that is complicit is Israel’s endless human rights abuses”.

Zohra, another ULFOP member agrees. She feels that “this vote is a genuine reflection of the mood on campus – where students from all faiths and backgrounds believe that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and their territories is unjust, akin to an apartheid system and thus cannot be allowed to continue”.Man wearing "vote yes to BDS" t-shirt stands next to a sign saying "our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians".

This win means that the Guild will no longer stock products made in Israel or Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and advocate divestment from companies that supply and profit from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. They are also mandated to lobby against the University’s investments in these companies, as the university has ties to arms companies such as BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Qinetiq, who have supplied arms to Israel.

This vote was a huge victory for student activism. Liverpool students have raised their voices and made clear that they do not want their university to invest in military occupation, systemic discrimination and apartheid.

Arms Trade Links Row

Block_A,_Waterhouse_Buildings,_University_of_LiverpoolElle Spencer reports for Liverpool Life magazine about concerns over the University of Liverpool’s links with the arms trade.

Students, activists and concerned citizens alike gathered in the Liverpool Guild of Students on Monday to discuss the University of Liverpool’s alleged involvement with the arms trade.

Campaigner Greg Dropkin, who spoke at the meeting and who presented the report “Get Your Bombs Off Our Lawn”, examined links between the University of Liverpool and the arms trade. It is claimed students’ research may be being used to improve weaponry systems that could later be used to commit acts of war.

“This is not just some kind of kid’s game here. The university is helping to design drones and 10 to 15 years later these drones are killing people”, he told the meeting, held by the Liverpool branch of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

The University of Liverpool have insisted they abide by a strict code of research ethics. However, some students and staff have become so concerned over the university’s apparent lack of transparency that they have decided to take a stand and call for action.

Sarah Ali, a Palestinian who worked as a teacher in Gaza, spoke about her loss of education under continual military occupation. She explained how oppressive the 24-hour drone surveillance was, how the continual buzzing felt like “drilling in your brain”. She recalled a time when she allowed her students, aged 8 to 11, to draw during class. Nine out of her sixteen students drew bombs, missiles or similar – “one child drew a dead body”.

Despite receiving several freedom of Information (FOI) Act requests, the University has declined to divulge any information regarding its finacial relations with arms companies over the past five years. In response to the FOI request the University cited protection of the university’s commercial interests and a breach in confidential data as reasons for choosing not to supply the information.

Details requested of the UOL included the total amount the university had received from arms trade companies and the Ministry of Defence, a portfolio statement of their investments in funds and their corrresponding companies, and a confirmation of whether they held any shares in arms trade companies.

According to CAAT, the University of Liverpool provided £17.5 million of funding for military projects between 2001 and 2006.

In response, the university refered to their original response to the FOI response to the FOI request and told Liverpool Life “The University abides by a strict code of ethics, which applies to all of its research projects.”

First published by Liverpool Life magazine

Bristol Students take action against arms companies recruiting at their university

Banner drop Bristol careers fair 2015 close

Last week students in Bristol took action against arms companies recruiting on their campus. Several arms companies were exhibiting at an IT and Engineering careers fair in the University’s Wills Memorial Building, but the Bristol Left society were there to counter them with a banner drop and an information stall.

The action was a protest against the presence in universities of arms companies who sell arms and profit from the use of weapons in conflicts and by governments the world over. Students handed out leaflets about the unethical practices of companies at the fair, which included BAE Systems, QinetiQ, Airbus and Boeing, and then dropped a banner reading “ARMS OFF CAMPUS. Education for liberation not warfare” from the balcony inside the fair.

Rachel, a student activist with Bristol Left, said:

“The world would be a better place without arms trading companies, and students should be encouraged to avoid them. The point of an education establishment is to give young people the knowledge to be able to pursue careers that change the world for the better, rather than encouraging them to do jobs that are unsustainable, destructive and unethical without them even knowing the true implication of their work.”

BAE Systems is the largest arms manufacturer in the UK, and their weapons are sold indiscriminately around the world, including to dictators, human rights abusers, and countries at war. Their products have been used to suppress peaceful pro-democracy protests and to support the Saudi air force in their bombing of Yemen. They have been investigated by the serious fraud office for dealings in at least 8 different countries.

A 4th-year physics student commented:

“At a time where we are seeing the devastations of war, and the refugee crisis, seeing arms companies represented and welcomed is outrageous. The companies are profiting from warfare, and all its suffering, and we shouldn’t let that happen.”

University careers fairs are where arms companies recruit graduates to design, build and market the next generation of weapons. But many students feel that universities should not be helping arms companies to recruit by hosting them at careers fairs. But as one student commented:

“the university gives the companies stalls in the fair based on the companies’ ability to pay, rather than relevance to students or ethics of the companies.”