Recent debates at London Colleges surrounding the recruitment activities of Student Military Organisations have hit the headlines this week with the Evening Standard and Daily Mail carrying coverage of the ban at UCL.
The UCL Motion preventing military recruitment, including attendance at freshers' fairs on campus, comes amid concerns over RAF Wittering's decision to order officers not to wear uniform in public following excessive taunts and abuse. The paper passed by UCL states that ?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? suggesting that military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is a direct decision of Military Organisations such as the OTC, URNU and ULAS rather than a politically motivated decision of the UK Government.
Members of Parliament have described the move as ?insulting? to men and women in public service and that the students at UCL are ?misguided? in their lack of support for Military Personnel. Imperial College Students, who proposed the recent motion passed at ULU Senate supporting Student Military Organisations, were invited to attend the UCL UGM on Wednesday when the paper was passed. UCL's sabbatical officer for Education and Welfare, Andrew Fernando, invited proposers of Imperial College Union?s Motion to speak at the UGM after fears that the ULU President would not send the mandated correspondence in time for their imminent meeting.
The letter would have made questionable difference as observers of the meeting were horrified at the bias in proceedings meaning that opposition to the paper was virtually impossible. The Chair of the meeting, Samantha Godwin, a UCL part-time executive officer and supporter of the paper, vacated the Chair to join the debate in favour of the motion. The General Secretary-elect, said by some observers to also be in favour of the motion, but denied by other supporters of it, took over the chair. A number of calls to count quorum from the paper?s opposition were ignored after the change of chair. The meeting had emptied drastically when the debate descended into pointless bickering about the War in Iraq and the Dividing Wall in the West Bank region of Israel/Palestine making the attendance far below the required 215 voting members (1% of the Student Population of UCL). The Chair was passed to another supporter of the paper who moved to a vote passing the motion by only 89 votes to 59. A strongly biased press release from UCL General Secretary, the same Samantha Godwin, claims that the numbers present were in excess of 300 despite no further motions being passed after a subsequent call for quorum was upheld.
The NUS have decided not to take a stance on the issue and have directed all press queries to ICU President, Stephen Brown. Speaking to Live!, Stephen commented: ?I am disappointed the NUS didn?t want to commit to anything correct or proper just because they don?t want to upset a load of bloody nutters?. Brown continued stating that the vote was "an absolute disgrace". Student Unions throughout London are still awaiting letters from ULU President, Jennifer Huseman, outlining ULU?s support of Student Military Organisations and condemning discrimination against the many student servicemen who attend London Universities. Student Unions need to remember that they are there to represent and act on behalf of their members, many of whom will be members of Student Military Organisations or are engaged in active military service prior to or alongside their studies, not to make political statements which restrict and discriminate against legitimate student activities.
Addendum from the Editor
The exact circumstances of the meeting appear to be in serious dispute, which both sides claiming different things. In the interest of fairness, the draft, unapproved minutes of the AGM are available from the box on the right.