Andrew Pierce / The Telegraph – 2008-03-08 21:38:35
ONDON (March 8, 2008) — The students’ union at University College London (UCL) passed a motion attacking the Government for “waging an aggressive war overseas” in Afghanistan and Iraq.
To the dismay of the university management, it also prohibited the military from setting up recruitment stalls at freshers’ fairs. The students also voted to break off links with the Officer Training Corps, which recruits up to half its number from universities up and down the country.
The union motion, passed by a majority of 80 votes to 50, said: “This union believes that because the British military under the Labour Government is currently engaged in an aggressive war overseas, for the union to use its resources to encourage students to join the military or participate in military recruitment activities at this time would give political and material support to the war.”
A spokesman for UCL scorned the vote and said there was no question of the ban being applied. “This vote was taken by the student union and refers to union premises and events only.
“It has no implications for any activities held on the main campus of UCL, or sponsored by the university,” said the spokesman.
The vote will fuel the debate over the treatment of military personnel after servicemen and women from RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire were ordered not to wear their uniforms in nearby Peterborough after reports of verbal abuse.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman described the vote at UCL as deeply disappointing. He said: “Universities play an important role in raising awareness among young people about the important work our Armed Forces do and we enjoy a good relationship with most universities. However people view specific military operations, everyone should be able to respect the brave and professional job our Armed Forces perform.”
Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and former infantry commander, said: ” These students are deeply misguided. They are insulting the men and women who fight for their freedom and the democratic rights of our society.”
The vote at UCL follows similar ones at Goldsmiths and London School of Economics, both part of the University of London.
A spokesman for the National Union of Students said it was not aware of any other unions placing bans on the military. They were routinely imposed by student unions in protest at the ban on homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces. But since that was lifted in 2000 most have reversed their position.
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