Deputy News Editor
Student activists are protesting once again to put pressure on the University to divest from the arms trade and ask why the University has not made a commitment to divestment yet.
Students gathered on Wednesday 26 February at Memorial Gate outside the Main Building to protest with the Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition (GUADC) over the University’s investment in the arms trade.
Almost 500 students showed interest in GUADC’s latest protest event on Facebook. Over the last four months, GUADC have been holding peaceful protests, fundraising events and started a petition to pressure the University to fully divest from the industry. However, the group said that the University has still not committed to divesting.
Students voiced their frustration with the lack of action from University management. On the protest’s event page, GUADC said that senior management were “ignorant” over student views.
The coalition formed at the start of last semester following an investigation by The Glasgow Guardian which revealed that the University of Glasgow invested over £3m in the arms trade. The GUADC are now demanding that the University divest from the arms trade and military service providers such as BAE systems, United Technologies and Boeing.
At the protest, students put up signs saying “Arms are 4 hugging! UofG Divest Now” and “Books Not Bombs” on the gates. The protest started shortly after the end of the UCU picket to show solidarity with the lecturers and University staff who are currently on strike over pensions and poor working conditions. Several UCU members also attended and supported the protest.
10 student societies took part in this demonstration including Student Action Against Refugees, Glasgow University Amnesty International, Extinction Rebellion, Glasgow University Solidarity Collective, Glasgow University Palestine Society, Glasgow Marxists, Glasgow Refugee, Asylum Seeker Solidarity and more.
Junaid Ashraf, Elaine Gallagher, and Graham Campbell, nominees for University rector, also made speeches at the protest, saying that they would commit to full divestment if they were to be elected.
Protesters said that they are frustrated that the University is prioritising profits over ethics.
Agnes Berner, a third-year Politics and Geography student said: “The main issue is that they’re currently making a profit off of these investments and the way that universities are being run in the UK generally is in a way where profit comes first.”
She added that this opened up more difficult questions on how universities make money and where they invest that money. While the University of Glasgow has committed to ethical and socially responsible investing, Berner said that this policy is “very vague and it means that they’re not held accountable to it so hopefully this could lead to a stricter ban on the arms investments like they have on tobacco currently.”
Vishwaamithran Ramakrishnan, an exchange student from McGill University in Canada, said that the University of Glasgow investing in the arms trade is undoubtedly unethical.
“They’re giving money to build bombs to kill people, like I don’t think there’s anything more ethically questionable a university can do. We don’t come to this university to be change makers and at the same time have blood on our hands,” Ramakrishnan said.
Ramakrishnan also said that the lack of resolution on both this issue and the UCU strikes reflected poorly on the University’s senior management.
“The fact that these issues are still persisting and that we’re still out here protesting and fighting these issues shows that the management is not doing a good job,” Ramakrishnan said.
These feelings were echoed by many students who feel like senior management haven’t communicated well with students on these issues. Ross Tanner, a second-year History and Spanish student, said that there hadn’t been any discussion with students on either issue.
“I think the University has been quite poor in dealing with divestment and dealing with the UCU strikes because it feels like following the strikes in December, nothing’s been done to correct that,” Tanner said.
However the University did show some support of the protest on their social media and tweeted: “Student groups are protesting peacefully at our memorial gates today to put pressure on the University to accelerate our divestment programme“ along with a photo of the protest organisers holding a sign saying “hypocrites”.
GUADC have responded to this on their Facebook page and claim that this is actually twisting the story to “make it look as if the University is on our side instead of actively working against us”.
The organisation ended their statement telling the University to: “Start addressing the working conditions of your exploited staff in your social media instead of co-opting student campaigns”.