The University’s continued investment in the arms trade tells us more than we might think at first glance. We have the obvious lack of moral fibre in their financial dealings, certainly. We have the contempt for student protests and activism, for the constant attacks in our newspapers, and in leader columns just like this one. But even with this University’s record for hypocrisy, none of the aforementioned is particularly surprising, rather it is business as usual.
What is new, and acutely worse than what we have come to expect, is not the usual silent contempt for student opinion. What is happening now is that when it comes to giving money to companies whose business is making killing more efficient, the University has actually bettered (or further debased) itself. Investment in BAE Systems and Rolls Royce has actually increased by £350,000 over two years. We wonder if the academics in the new Centre for Applied Human Rights know that their pensions will be paid for in part by the oppression and conflict they attempt to curb every day of their working lives?
During this time period, universities like UCL, Durham, and SOAS have all ceased to keep shareholdings that their students consider to lack the humanitarian or environmental credentials needed to legitimise such a move. York, by contrast, is now 6th nationally for propping up the arms trade, even as our academics in the humanities strive to make us more ethically aware and more culturally sensitive. The long-fabled “ethical investment proposal” is still yet to appear in writing, let alone be considered by students.
Alternative companies could be profitable to the university without the need to forget social responsibility. There can be no excuse for financing the killing and maiming of our fellow men and women.