Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Signposted: Lancaster Uni's links with arms dealer BAE

Last Saturday 28 September, the sign at the main entrance of Lancaster University was 'modified' to highlight the university's partnership with BAE Systems.

BAE’s corporate logo and the slogan “Careers in Killing” were added to the sign.

Virtual-Lancaster has received the following press release:

"BAE systems are the world’s third largest arms dealer. 95% of their sales are military in nature. The corporation sells indiscriminately where ever it thinks it can make a profit; from the handcuffs in Guantanamo bay to the HUD displays of Israeli fighter jets, BAE profits through death dealing. They are also mired in multiple corruption cases, having been investigated by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice.

"BAE and other arms companies rely on universities to perform crucial research and to recruit graduates. They are not only sponsored by the university, but they also sponsor courses in the management school. Lancaster University want to brush their involvement with BAE under the carpet, unaccountably not involving students with the running of the university. By taking this action it is hoped that we can begin to create a real debate on the presence of arms companies on campus."

The release was signed 'George Fox  (Retired)'. We understand this to be a reference to the George Fox 6, a group of students who were charged with Aggravated Trespass for demonstrating in 2004 at a corporate venturing conference at the university:

"The protesters unfurled banners during the opening speech by Lord Sainsbury, given before an audience consisting of delegates from such companies as The Carlyle Group, BOC (suppliers of poison gas to Huntingdon Life Sciences), BAE Systems, Alvis, GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, DuPont and Shell. They were protesting against arms manufacture, the destruction of the environment, GM crops, animal testing and human rights." (see report)

The event was thought at the time to be something of a recordbreaker for including so great a complicity of objectionable issues at once.  BAE Systems were noted to have sold 15 Hawk jets to the Indonesian government, which had used them in killing half a million East Timorese. They had also sold 8,000 electric stun batons to Saudi Arabia, an act condemned by Amnesty International. 

An irony not lost on the court where the demonstrators received Conditional Discharges a year later was the fact that the university building used for the conference, which involved so many companies condemned internationally for their involvement in human rights abuses and unethical practices, was named after George Fox, a devout and committed pacifist and founder of the Society of Friends. Indeed the university colours include Quaker Grey and in previous times the University boasted of its proud tradition of dissent and free-thinking.  Local Quakers wrote to object to this usage of the building named after their founder.

Projects in which Lancaster University is currently in partnership with BAE Systems include the Gamma Programme, developing unmanned systems.  "Growing Autonomous  Mission Management Applications (GAMMA) is a three year £9.1 million, Autonomous Systems programme aimed at driving SME engagement and developing technology within the emerging autonomous systems markets." 

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