The Archbishop of York has spoken of his concern that the University’s investment in BAE Systems and Petrochina could prevent academic research “from being open to the truth”.
Speaking during a visit to the campus on June 11, Dr John Sentamu said, “If a university has very clear ethical principles, which I would have thought York would have, my worry would be if that academic institution was hindered in its research and its criticism.
“What is critical is not necessarily just the holding of shares, but if the holding of shares prevents the University from being open to the truth.”
In May, Nouse uncovered evidence that the University holds indirect shares in Petrochina, a major Chinese oil firm that has been labelled as complicit in the Sudanese genocide. Kate Evans, chair of the People and Planet Society, condemned the investments, saying, “I’d like to think the average student would be shocked to discover our tuition fees are indirectly funding genocide.”
The investigation also discovered the University still holds 147,100 shares in the arms company BAE Systems, an investment first discovered by Nouse in October 2005.
YUSU Environment Officer Tom Langley said, “We disagree with the Archbishop, in that the problem with the investments isn’t just the effect it has inside the University. The University’s investments will have a direct impact on people’s lives and we need to make sure the investments go in line with their ethical policy.
“The University does have strong ethical principles, but previously it hasn’t been impossible to apply these to investments. Now the University is starting to take this account and they really are taking it seriously.”
Reverend Rory Dagliesh, the University of York Methodist Chaplian, said, “I don’t personally believe that investment in weapons manufacturing is ever justifiable.
“Our choices impact on the lives of others and we have a responsibility to make choices in all areas of life that make the greatest positive contribution. It may be well nigh impossible to comb through every investment portfolio in a large organisation in search of questionable shareholdings, but in the case of Petrochina and BAE Systems, credible questions from reputable sources have been asked about corruption and complicity in real human suffering, and other institutions and organizations have already made the choice to disinvest from them.”
During his visit, Dr Sentamu was shown around the politics department and praised it for its post-war reconstruction research. “I didn’t see anything which would prevent research commenting, even if things are uncomfortable,” he said.
Dr Sentamu also said it was “very worrying” that 49% of foreign students at the University of York feel excluded by British students.
“The presence of international students is very good for the University. There are people who did their masters in the Politics Department here who are now government ministers in other parts of the world, so you’re spreading your internationalism through education.”
The findings came as a result of a survey of international students conducted by Nouse in May. “All students are future leaders, and if you can’t get on at university, then the state of future leadership is very worrying and it becomes very difficult for the future for all of us.” He said it was the duty of students to make sure everyone gets on, adding, “It is an international community and therefore it ought to be wonderful.”
In May, Dr Sentamu took out an advert in local paper The York Press warning voters that apathy could lead York to “sleepwalk into a wall of hate”, a reference to the BNP standing in various wards across the city. He called the result a success. “My message was reminding people that they should go out and vote, and what was interesting is that the voting figures went up by about 18%. If a lot of people don’t go out to vote, then minority parties tend to get in. Larger turnouts are the only answer to minority groups and if apathy comes, then we’re in a mess.”
Dr. Sentamu also talked with Christian students at More House, the Catholic Chaplaincy. Rev Dalgliesh said those students that met the Archbishop found it very rewarding. “Dr. Sentamu was engaging and warm and I liked his forthrightness,” he said.
Dr. Sentamu, who was elected the Church of England’s first black archbishop in 2005, has been a notable figure in politics, serving as advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Enquiry and Chair of the Damilola Taylor review.
In light of recent debate on multiculturalism, Dr Sentamu has called for the rediscovery of English pride and cultural identity. He also has been a prominent opponent of the Sexual Orientation Regulation. Speaking against the legislation, Dr. Sentamu said the government was seeking to have “consciences surgically removed.”