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Council rejects 'anti-war' motion

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Feb 11 2003 12:45

ICU Council yesterday declined to pass a motion opposing war in Iraq.

Feb 11 2003 13:18

I just wanted to add that the EGM was narrowly defeated by a vote of 13-12.

Feb 11 2003 14:21

It seemed that the argument for an EGM then referendum was to find out what the student body thinks about war, not what they think about the Union doing things for students.

What surprised me was the way Council didn't want to inform themselves of the actual student position, having told the campaigners that they couldn't be sure of their constituents' views, and therefore couldn't support the motion.

Feb 11 2003 14:25

Frankly, the most important point is that it doesn't matter. Our union has no right to take a position on something that does not affect us as students - it serves no purpose save to isolate those to hold an alternative view.

This issue, like so many others, is a matter of personal choice. It is not the place of anyone to suggest otherwise. We are not a political union, we should be proud of that. We should be concerned with issues that affect students as students on which we can make a substantive and direct difference.

Feb 11 2003 16:01

To cite another example of such an issue, versus .imperial, a matter that I believe you chose to bring to council!

Feb 11 2003 16:46

'We should be concerned with issues that affect students as students on which we can make a substantive and direct difference.' o pell

Quote from Paper G, a note by oliver pell:

'ICU resolves that the Union President shall be responsible for ensuring that the existence and superiority of the '' domain is publicised to Freshers at the start of the year'

hmm 'ic superiority' to affect students?????????????????????

Feb 11 2003 16:57

Tom - eh?

  • It is a matter which affects students.
  • The Union was in a position to do something about it.

That it choose not to is not the point. I really can't see how it can be compared.

Feb 11 2003 17:08

When I vote in these upcoming sabb elections, I want to vote for who is going to run our union.

When I vote in the national elections I vote for people to run our country.

If I don't want us to go to war then I lobby my MP. I don't lobby a sabb. I wish people in the Union would realise that I and a lot of my friends didn't mandate them to effectively waste their time debating the pros and cons of war when they could be improving union catering.

Feb 11 2003 21:58

After my previous rants about the moronity of Council and Exec's decisions It's heartening that Council seems to have taken the right decision on principle.

Whatever one's views on any war in Iraq, the Union's role has never been to get involved in political issues that clearly have no relevance to students. It damages the Union's authority and takes officers' and Councils' attention from important student affairs which they can do something about.

9. tom t   
Feb 12 2003 10:45

And when, Hamish, students get conscripted to a war, does it still not affect them?

And when, Hamish, Blair gets the Army into guard Piccadilly Circus traffic lights, delaying students' journeys into college, does it not affect them?

And when, Hamish, students are asked to research deadly biological agents, does it not affect them?

etc etc etc

Don't forget, it was physicists of the highest calibre that invented the atom bomb, not parliamentarians in whitehall.

Or is my head just not buried deep enough in the sand yet?

Feb 12 2003 11:00

Tom T, which bit of "a Non Political Union" do you not understand?

I would find it disgraceful if the union was to come up with a decision to condemn the war in Iraq.

Whilst some students may have strong views against war, others may support it, and a blanket decision would not be in students interests.

For one of the first times this year in my view the people who represent students to the union have made the right decision - To stay well out of political issues which do not affect students.

11. Xhris   
Feb 12 2003 11:31

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (not the most lefty of organisations), a war on Iraq similar to Gulf War 1 would cost the government about ?3.2 billion. Now if that money was put into helping students out with, say ?1000 worth of fees this year, and we split this between, say 100 universities, then that would pay for 3,200 Imperial students education.

"something that does not affect us as students"? Gimme a break!

Feb 12 2003 12:04

Of course the potential war would affect all of us as people as it affects everyone in the country. But it does not specifically affect us as students.

I personally think that a war with Iraq is both unjustified and would be a very bad idea indeed and am marching on Saturday in an attempt to voice that opinion. However, I don't think it would be democratic for ICU to have an official view on the subject. This is mostly, because there are students here who think that a war with Iraq is justified and would be a good idea. I disagree with them but they are entitled to their opinions and ICU, should support these voices as equally as any who are anti-war.

Arguments such as "a war on Iraq .....<snip>... would pay for 3,200 Imperial students education" and "Blair gets the Army into guard Piccadilly Circus traffic lights, delaying students' journeys into college" though technically true, seem to be to be slightly contrived to fit in with the current argument. The likelyhood of the saved defense spending from a non-war being spent on Higher Education is, I think most of you will agree, minimal. Those who are in support of this, I'm sure, could come up with arguments as to how the lack of a war with Iraq could potentially affect us all badly. (eg. Saddam getting stronger in a military sense and an even bigger and bloodier war happening later? I don't know, I don't know what your fears are, people. Anyway, the point is, you're entitled to your opinions...)

Arguments such as students being conscripted seem almost ridiculous - unless you're talking about WW2 style compulsary conscription for all and sundry (which seems unlikely), any who join the armed forces do so out of their own choice and technically could leave if they chose to. As for research - again, it is up to individuals whether they chose to carry out research to develop military technology. As someone who turned down a lovely aerodynamics phd project that had the side effect of aiding missile development for that reason, I am well aware of the existance of such choices.

This is not a specific student politics issue and as such ICU should take a neutral stance in order to represent all its members. Anything else is simply undemocratic.

Feb 12 2003 13:09

I quite agree with Nia, above. "tom t" makes a facile argument that because students will be affected in indirect ways, nothing to do with them being students, that should give jurisdiction to ICU to take a political stance on a matter of personal conscience. This is the sort of thing that has given appalling reputations to student unions in the past.

Feb 12 2003 13:21

rant/ I agree with Nia's points on Tom's simplistic arguments. Students from Imperial are amongst the least likely to be conscripted into war.

  • There are plenty of other 20 year old cannon fodder out there. Students are in a minority of those eligible to be conscripted.
  • A lot of Imperial students don't have British Citizenship and so wouldn't be eligible.
  • Half of the people at Imperial are too unfit to go to war. Partially driven by our uber small gym and sports grounds being miles away.
  • Finally if we did get conscripted most of the people would end up doing rear echelon jobs.

Also, if troops start stopping traffic at Picadilly circus it's obviously students who are going to suffer the most.

More convincing is the argument that the Government shouldn't be "wasting" money going to war. I think it is best to make the case for students receiving more money without consideration of whether we go to war or not. That way the Government, who's job it is to decide on budjet allocations will see the importance of funding students.

Furthermore XChris can't do maths, and so must be a medic. It would be 32,000 students (even better). But equally if we just dumped the defence budjet entirely we would have even more students. But enfortunately a lot fewer jobs and less.

I despise the way that some of those elected to respresent on student issues decide to waste their time representing on other issues they weren't elected to represent. If you want to fight against the war then join a national movement against the war.

Or we could just waste a lot of money we could put into catering (which does affect me) and call a referendum. Then IC can tell the world that we don't support a war against Iraq. I'm sure all the press will listen to us. However if we do something about fees then the press will listen to us. /rant

15. Xhris   
Feb 12 2003 13:26

Yeah, I just realised it was wrong. And guess what- I'm a mathematician. How foolish am I? It just shows how unbelieveable the figure actually is. I think I'll got and crawl back into a hole. Mathematicians can't deal with big numbers, that's physicists. However I'd suggest that lives are more important than numbers employed in the "defence" industry.

Feb 12 2003 13:47

Fair point. I'm in the middle of a 5000 word essay and so at the momment would quite happily be parachuted into downtown Baghdad and do an Arny. Hence the rant.

17. tom t   
Feb 12 2003 15:39

tell me, Zebedee, were/are you on the tuition fees working group? Did you do stuff to directly influence the press re: tuition fees?

Secondly, can you tell me the proportion of students who actually eat in the Union? And if you want to make a difference, surely one pro-active thing you can do is get a job behind the catering bar and work for improvement (by students for students)...

One thing I am happy about is the fact that all this has stirred up so much discussion. We don't often get extended rants about the catering for example. Maybe war is an issue that affects students.

Bad food has nothing to do with my student status, since I can eat where I want, and the Union is not hte cheapest place for me to get a baguette. However, I cannot personally choose whether or not we bomb Baghdad, which is why some of us thought we could enlist the Union's help...

Finally, you despise 'the way that some of those elected to respresent on student issues decide to waste their time representing on other issues they weren't elected to represent'. Don't worry - none of them are representing an opinion on this issue. The motion was withdrawn at council.

boing boing boing

Feb 12 2003 15:40

When the paper comes back to council, don't forget to move to a vote as soon as the debate has begun.

After all that's tom t.'s policy...

Feb 12 2003 16:24

I'm sorry, but i cannot find the place in Union regulation or policy that claims that no political activities cannot be supported by the Union? I found one that says the Union cannot affiliate to organisations of a political nature, but that sounds rather different to me. Could you point me towards it please?

Also I don't understand how such a policy would be possible: I think it's my right as a free citizen to express my political views and try and get as much leverage as possible. I think it's legitimate for a school techer to strike over an issue which has nothing to do with him/her as 'a teacher'. In my view, the need for student politics is quite simply that it is the obvious audience for me to refer to, as it is the single 'slice of society' that I understand better. I'd be suprised to find that it was Union policy to take away my right to adress an audience, ie my right to free speech.

Feb 12 2003 16:46

James, I couldn't agree with you more in that the protection of free speech of the individual is important. This is precisely why it's important that ICU remains neutral on certain issues.

I think ICU should provide support if a group of students from ic were to get together and protest("IC students against the war club" or something - obviously recieving no financial support for political activities in line with the law etc etc). Equally, if a group of students wanted to get together and protest "for the war" then ICU should provide the same support.

If ICU were to take an official anti-war stance then it would be unable to support such a "students for the war" group and thus surpressing their free speech slightly.

In supporting free speech for all you have to accept that some people are going to say things you disagree with.

21. CIA   
Feb 12 2003 17:10
Feb 12 2003 17:16

"I think ICU should provide support if a group of students from ic were to get together and protest("IC students against the war club" or something - obviously recieving no financial support for political activities in line with the law etc etc). "

This point was raised during council. The fact is that the motion was presented by a group of students from Imperial who wanted to form such a group last year, concernign war on Afghanistan. The society was never formed, because it was felt that it was far too much of an effimerous cause, that it would not be worth forming a society for such a brief period of time and that none was terribly interested in forming a 'pacifist' society, because nobody felt... pacifist enough!

Feb 12 2003 17:38

Tom T,

I went and stood out in the rain against tuition fees. Something I have to congratulate you for because you did and do do far more in organising and campaigning in that respect than I. I also wrote to my MP against tuition fees (and got a reply + info pack back).

Problem is I like what the union does on a local level but I don't want them representing me to Government on anything other than education issues.

Nia came up with some good ideas. Can't think of any way of doing that other than the dreaded NUS (who I REALLY don't like) or we could hold a referendum and see who is pro or against or doesn't care. The problem with that is the tremendous cost in terms of cash & time that referenda have.

Nia talks about clubs and societies - I guess you could join a party (Lib Dem and Greens seem against the war) or NUS (....) as an individual.

Maybe we need a Union Active (full of hacks) who can subscribe members whom they can represent. Because as Nia says, if we take a position on every major political topic then we risk alienating a lot of students. I honestly don't think student politics should be about national (other than educational) issues.

Now have 5,981 words on my essay... and several hundred on here.

24. Sam   
Feb 12 2003 17:46


There is nothing in Union Policy that says you can't take a political stance on anything. It is more a question of practise.

For many years ICU has consistently voted against political motions on the grounds that it "does not affect students directly" or that it should be a "matter of personal preference". There is no policy that says they have to do this, however a large number of people seem to think that a Students' Union should debate and form policy only on those things within it's remit - i.e. affecting students.

I'm not arguing that war does not affect students, so don't start attacking me, i'm just saying the accepted practise is to leave matters such as this up to the individual.

My prime example is Nestle products. The NUS bans their sale in Union Shops. So at an NUS College, you can't buy a kit-kat. While I agree that Nestle's treatment of the developing world and human rights is shocking, I don't think ICU should make any attempt to restrict the freedom of choice I have to buy what chocolate I chose, whenever I like.

Freedom of choice is the important thing here, Mine.

Feb 12 2003 20:17

Dare I say it - "maybe we need a union policy..."

Feb 13 2003 02:29

That would be pointless, Zebedee. Any resolution of Council is policy. So if Council has policy not to have a certain type of policy and subsequently passes such a policy then the latter resolution overrides so you end up having that sort of policy anyway.

(If you follow :-)

Feb 13 2003 07:12

Now, please don't all faint at once, but I'm going to stand up for the NUSSL!

Actually NUSSL doesn't ban Nestle products (hence the cliche Nustle products) it merely has an Ethical Policy encouraging Nestle and other large companies to be ethical.

This is when as treasurer of my club I refused to hand back a 250GBP donation from Nestle on the grounds "that the shop stocks Nestle products so dont start having [even more] double standards... if the shops stops stocking them then I'll repay all the money".

I won.

28. Sam   
Feb 13 2003 09:43

Ummm, you are correct Rob, NUS Services Limited doesn't ban the sale of anything. NUSSL Stocks and Distributes Nestle Products.

However I said it is NUS policy not to stock them in NUS College Unions. So while an NUS college can buy them from the NUS, it is against NUS policy to sell them.

Feb 13 2003 10:38

Might I suggest that opposition to war is not a political view but a moral one. Both support and opposition to a war in Iraq cross the political spectrum. It still remains coucil's perogative not to shove it's views down other peoples throats, but to refrain from commenting on the grounds that it would be taking a political stance is, to my reckoning at least, incorrect.

Feb 13 2003 11:27

Ah, this must be why I love to stuff my face with Aeros, Yorkies and Nescafe!:)

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