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This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

UCLU AGM: Racism, Bigotry and Pig-headedness

Mar 10 2008 13:17
Chris Mullan, Strand Poly Correspondent
Live!'s correspondent on The Strand gets stuck in to the controversy surrounding UCLU's decision to ban student military organisations from their premises.
Chris Mullan, KCLSU President-elect

The 'Widening Participation' column aims to bring the views of people outside Imperial to Live! Chris Mullan, President-elect at King's, wades into the controversy to comment on the recent furore over banning student military organisations. You can also find this article on his blog.

This article expresses solely his personal views, and not those of KCLSU.

Racism, bigotry, and good old fashioned contrived left vs right pig-headedness all met in the fiery inferno of UCLU's AGM on the 5th and resulted in the kind of divisive outcome that has led generations of students to dismiss their unions as nothing more than crazy demagogues whose internecine bickering serves no purpose other than to warm chairs.

...the kind of divisive outcome that has led generations of students to dismiss their unions as nothing more than crazy demagogues...
Chris Mullan on the UCLU AGM

The debacle followed on from the very heated ULU senate meeting where ULU Presiden Jen Huseman was taken apart for her initial refusal to fulfil the most basic task of a union president, representation of her members. Having realised that the room was clear in wanting a letter condemning the condemnation of OTC and other service groups, Jen constantly reiterated waffle about 'cultural and spiritual reasons' for not wanting to sign her name on the basis of 'generations of pacifism'. But this argument was swiftly dispatched by an OTC group leader who pointed out that these students groups in no way participated in any kind of hostile activities so the pacifism argument was a non-sequiter and entirely irrelevant to the argument.

In the end, and despite some desperate squeaks about 'checking equal ops policy' on Jen's part, the vote was a clear cut demand for the 'part-time' President of ULU to actually do her job, the only dissent being 'usual suspect' SOAS. The UCL delegate to senate, Andy Fernando, was pleased to be able to bring the news of success of this motion to the AGM the following day, and was emboldedn by the near unanimity of other UL colleges supporting the pro-OTC motion.

So what when wrong at UCLU? In scenes reminiscent of NUS conference, or the happenings of some dysfunctional polytechnic Student Union, lies, ignorance and fear-mongering half-truths were flung around to irritate and agitate. Students on both sides of the argument were made to feel like their union was riding rough-shod over their views, and was deliberately picking a marmite issue to stir up bad blood between students.

The result was a tense and worked up AGM where no-one present was there to hear the issues discussed and to vote according to the arguments made. Everyone there knew how they were going to vote before they arrived. Any neutral student would be bewildered as the major component of the debating was slagging off the other side. The AGM had little to do with finding out about what students felt and how their union could represent them, and more to do with which group could mobilise the most angry people to turn up and vote their way.

The resulting mess is what drives students up and down the country from feeling that their union is there to work for them and to represent their views. It's what makes it easy for the people we try to lobby to dismiss student unions as nothing more than frivolous and unrepresentative. It's what makes it hard to convince students to come to us with their problems. It's what destroys a student union's sole source of legitimacy, the trust of its students.

Maybe someday student unions will move away from dabbling in geo-political issues like Israel-Palestine, maybe someday student unions will find the issues that unite students around a common cause, not divisive issues and minority pet projects. Someday, student unions will be the defining positive experience of a student's career at university, and have the prestige and legitimacy they deserve.

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Discussion about “UCLU AGM: Racism, Bigotry and Pig-headedness”

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.
Mar 10 2008 16:24
 

"Maybe someday student unions will move away from dabbling in geo-political issues like Israel-Palestine, maybe someday student unions will find the issues that unite students around a common cause, not divisive issues and minority pet projects."

It's exactly because the friends of Palestine decided to dabble with a very contentious issue, that the opponents had to either counter it, or come up with a motion that would treat each side of the conflict equally.

Good article.

Mar 10 2008 18:30
 

F**ksake. It is called King's College London. I am sick of you calling it Strand Poly.

Keats was good enough for King's, so was Desmond Tutu and Frank Farmer. Even Arthur C. Clarke. Who do we have? Brian May and David Irving.

It is not even intellectual snobbery, it is just ignorance.

3. Umm   
Mar 10 2008 20:08
 

Bloody good article. When will people realise that the military is merely a tool. Even if the OTCs did directly recruit serving Officers, what difference would it make to political decisions? None.

PS Matty, lighten up you turd. Who do we have? H.G. Wells, Sir William Perkin, Sir Ernst Chain... the list goes on and on. Ignorance? Look at your own.

Calling them Strand Poly is a bit of light-hearted banter, you stupid snivelling apologist. Try to contribute something worthwhile to the comments in future. Tit.

Mar 10 2008 20:09
 

Ignorance, and a sense of humour maybe...

Mar 10 2008 20:41
 

Having a bad day Matty?

Chris picked the name when he last wrote for Live!

Mar 10 2008 20:41
 

Yes, and resorting to personal insults just points towards a great lack of ignorance.

Light-hearted banter maybe, but it is light-hearted banter which is actually a symptom of the negative Imperial mindset. I just think it is insulting to our collective intelligence.

Otherwise, I did enjoy this article.

Mar 10 2008 20:46
 

Ah okay, I stand corrected. I know when I look like an idiot and right now is a good example.

And yes, I am not feeling well at all. I do apologise profusely for making Live! an outlet for this.

Mar 10 2008 22:55
 

It's just banter, we may be strand poly, but we also have women at our institution, so it kind of evens out.

Mar 10 2008 23:14
 

Hehe, getting a King's student to describe their alma mater as Strand Poly is a coup for Live!. It's like the Tory party getting an immigrant to give a talk on anti-immigration.

10. gizmo   
Mar 11 2008 03:02
 

"Bloody good article. When will people realise that the military is merely a tool."

Some definitions of tool:

5. anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose: Education is a tool for success.

6. a person manipulated by another for the latter's own ends.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_Royal_Naval_Unit

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Officers_Training_Corps

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_Air_Squadron

These "tools" are people. These people are being recruited in any way possible because manpower is weakening due to death and injury. You're mugs if you believe they simply aim to provide "life experience". They are in bed with the government (MoD).

"Even if the OTCs did directly recruit serving Officers, what difference would it make to political decisions? None."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/jan/07/politics.military

If you don't have the manpower, you can't continue the wars. duh....

As you run about posturing support of the military organsations and their right to any means of enticing your mates to enlist, look your mate in the eye and tell him/her that you would not talk them out of taking the bait because these miltary orgaisations have their best interest at heart. Then look them in the eye (if you ever see them again) after they've returned crazed, depressed, maimed or in a box and feel so proud that you supported giving the government the "tool" they needed.

It's not just about politics..it's about saving brothers and sisters as well.

"Exporting freedom and democracy is a great deal cheaper than having to bomb people into submission and then after the war say that we want to help them come back into civilisation. I would say export your prosperity, export your compassion, your generosity, rather than the opposites."

Desmond Tutu

11. David   
Mar 11 2008 08:49
 

Gizmo: Which bit of that is the justification for banning the OTC, then?

Mar 11 2008 09:10
 

"These people are being recruited in any way possible because manpower is weakening due to death and injury"

These units have been around for over 20 years. You make it sound like they've been set up since 2001 to recruit people into the military because of our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"As you run about posturing support of the military organsations and their right to any means of enticing your mates to enlist"

This is typical of the limited brain capacity shown by most of the people pushing this ban through. There is no requirement to enlist afterwards. Even in times of a national emergency they can't be deployed to anything more than guarding key civilian installations (e.g. power stations,). They simply aren't trained to be dropped into a war zone. Letting these students guard key installations is a crazy idea, and would only be entertained in the case of a very serious threat at home - in which case we'd pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan anyway. It would be like sending a borough parking attendant on a drugs bust with no additional training.

All this has really done is make we wish I'd known as much about OTC/URNU/ULAS earlier in my university career when I might have had time to join. It looks like they provides useful skills and good fun.

The people supporting these bans have their own anti-military axe to grind - they aren't interested in a sensible discussion of the issues and have just made a load of stuff up.

Mar 11 2008 09:21
 

I was not in any of the Uni service units but I was in the CCF at school. What I learnt there: respect for others, how to work in a team, how to work as a leader, how to survive in a sleeping bag on a very cold night and that I don't like tea (!!!) has stood me in very good stead for my working life.

I am now responsible for working with newly qualified/ trainee level staff and use many of the skills (both in delegating work and providing feedback to them and teamworking as whole) and I believe I use them effectively.

I did not walk away from it remembering how to use a 2.2. rifle (I really could not clean one and put it back together again without having to stop and think) and how to march.

Yes, if I had had the chance (I was asthmatic at the time) I probably would have joined the one of the services but not because I was directly recruited and given the opportunites I was but because (until this government screwed things over) I genuinely believed it was a good career choice.

Who has the right to stop anyone from learning the essential skill that I learnt which I truely believe you do not get from the academic side of school/ uni and (apart from maybe Scouts) from very few other activities*. If they don't want to join then don't but don't stop anyone else from making that choice.

*Before I get blasted I know you can learn some leading/ teamwork skills from other societies but I don't believe any actively teach you these skills.

Mar 11 2008 14:47
 

"If you don't have the manpower, you can't continue the wars. duh...."

Yes of course. However the OTCs provide only a miniscule number of Officers to the Forces. Maybe about 10% of my unit, the ULOTC has gone on to Sandhurst (thats about 25 people). There is no pressure applied for people to join the Forces, the information and support is provided, nothing more. We are free to leave at any time and have no call-up liability.

The experiences and skills I have gained from my time in the ULOTC have been invaluable, and the income has enabled me to enjoy uni life even more.

Banning these organisations from Fresher's Fayres will not deter people set on a military career. All it will do is prevent people who had not considered military service, who knew very little about the Forces, from becoming better informed. It is a travesty that this has happened, and hopefully the Unions responsible will see sense and reverse their patronising decisions.

15. Regan   
Mar 11 2008 21:08
 

The University of Warwick Used to have a policy which banned the military.

2years ago, whilst I was in my first year, that ban was removed. One of the main reasons for its removal was the fact that it ilegally discriminated against a minority of students - some of whom were only at university because of the financial sponsorship from the armed forces (?5,000 p.a. for some of them!). The updated policy lapsed earlier this year:

508 THE MILITARY

This Union Notes:

1 That in January 2000 the legal ban on LGBTU people serving in the armed forces was lifted.

2 That Women are actively encouraged and recruited to all but very few front line roles in the Military.

3 That some members of this Union have received funding from the military as a result of the Military?s presence during Freshers period.

This Union Believes:

1 That LGBTU people are every bit as capable of serving in the armed forces as heterosexual people and should be free to serve if they choose.

2 That women who meet the necessary standards should be allowed to serve in the same capacity as men, should they choose to.

3 That past and present members of the Military, who have fought and or died for us in many conflicts over the years, would be insulted if they were banned from publicising the Military within the Union.

This Union Resolves:

1 To continue to lobby the Military to encourage equal opportunity recruitment and practice.

2 To campaign against any form of prejudice within the Military.

Is it possible for someone to email myself a copy of the new London policy?

Mar 12 2008 00:34
 

What's the U in LGBTU? It seems to gain an extra letter every year...

17. hmm   
Mar 12 2008 01:20
 

Unsexual? There are some wierdos who decide that they would prefer to go through life WITHOUT sex, although I assumed these would be termed asexual...

Mar 12 2008 10:41
 

Some students receive ?13,00 p.a. from the military. They are quite keen to attract students.

19.  
Mar 12 2008 10:41
 

obv. I meant ?13,000

Mar 21 2008 05:30
 

I am a member of ULOTC, I have been for 4 years, It has improved me in a huge number of ways, it has taugh me leadership, respect for others, skiing, scuba diving, skydiving, has kept me fit, has allowed me to interact with the most diverse range of people I have ever met anywhere and in the next few weeks I shall hand my kit back, as many of my friends have done before me, in order to join the real world and settle down in a real job. Some decide to join the regular army or TA after uni, whether they are OTC or not. I have gained a huge respect for any member of our forces during my time in OTC, they are some of the most intelligent (well some of them), witty, hardworking people this fine country has, a credit to the nation. And we, students, the unemployed, the tax-dodgers and oxygen thieves at best ignore and at worst abuse them.

Education is not only obtained in university...

Mar 23 2008 22:43
 

This is nothing more then the army recruiting soldiers and what gives them the right to recruit on British soil??

And the unions that oppose this are just expressing their right to free speech and expression. If only there was an institution whos purpose was to defend that ...

22. Alice   
Mar 24 2008 18:05
 

"This is nothing more then the army recruiting soldiers and what gives them the right to recruit on British soil??"

Perhaps the fact that they're recruiting for the BRITISH army? Just a thought.

And besides, around half of the posts above are stating that the OTC etc. is not especially aimed at recruiting.

A union is not supposed to speak freely, it is supposed to be a voice for the views of its members. Its members may speak freely, mainly because we have an army that has fought for our right to keep it that way.

I think you're either stupid, ignorant or joking. I hope you're joking.

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