Heslington Hall was disrupted by protesters with drums and banners presenting a petition against investment in the BAE arms trade this afternoon.
The students started in Vanbrugh Paradise chanting “Disarm York, bin the bomb, hear our song” and continued around campus before culminating in front of Heslington Hall, the University’s administration centre, and home to all senior staff.
Freddy Vanson, Campaign Officer for Amnesty International, and one of the most vocal protesters, explained that they “believe in peace, participation and pacifism…we want the University to invest in education and welfare, not death and destruction.”
John Nicholls, YUSU Environment and Ethics Officer, protest organiser Theresa Herrmann and Vanson were allowed into the building to hand over the petition. Although security officers and the police were watching from a distance, they were able to meet with David Duncan, the Registrar and Secretary, and Graham Gilbert, the Director of Finance, who were extremely cooperative. They discussed the future of the University’s investment policy as well as specific concerns over investment into arms trade companies.
John Nicholls said, of the meeting, that “David Duncan confirmed that a policy on ethical investment is being taken to University Council for approval next Friday 6th March. He also confirmed that the specific students concerns regarding investment in BAE Systems will be highlighted to the Council, as well as the details of the demonstration itself and the petition signed by close to 2,000 students.”
Vanson commented “The meeting was a success and they seemed genuinely concerned with this issue. We hope to keep up the pressure so that this policy does get adopted and carried out for the coming months and years.”
As reported by Nouse in November, over the past two years the University has increased its shares in BAE, the UK’s largest defence company, to the amount of almost £1,000,000. York is currently the sixth-largest University investor in the arms trade. Students have shown their concern in this issue since 2005.
Graham Martin, an organiser for the Disarm Campaign, explained that the university has been “sitting on this for too long” and that it is time they made a decision.
Although this is seen as a positive step in reducing the investment in BAE, the protesters still face the issue of the University of York Pension Fund being controlled by the pension fund trustees. This body is separate from the university administration and it remains to be seen how much they will be concerned about students’ views.
Credits for YSTV: Anna Bucks and Simon Jones