Students voting in YUSU’s most recent referenda have voted against lobbying the University of York to discontinue BAE funded research.
Of the 1272 votes cast, an unusually high turnout for a YUSU referendum, 443 students supported the motion and 788 voted against.
Unsurprisingly, the additional motion to support “YUSU engaging with the university on how tuition fee income is being spent” passed with 894 votes. 129 students voted against the proposal despite no credible campaign against the motion being launched.
BAE reportedly pay the University of York Computer Sciences and Electronics department £600,000 to conduct research on systems for unmanned aircraft. In the referendum debate, held Friday 11th May, it was claimed that BAE had also sent academics from the University to Saudi Arabia to carry out research.
Amnesty International and DISARM York campaigned for YUSU to lobby against the University of York accepting research funded BAE based on the company’s poor human rights record.
In the referendum debate, the speakers for the YES campaign from Amnesty International and DISARM York argued that the University of York ethics policy already dictates that departments reject research paid for by tobacco companies and so should not accept research paid for by those who sell arms.
Speaking on behalf of the YES campaign and Disarm York, Louis Fletcher expressed his disappointment; “While the outcome of the referendum is regrettable, we would nevertheless like to express our deepest thanks to all those who campaigned and voted in our favour.
“We believe the 443 votes we achieved go some way in disproving claims that this campaign was pedalled by a small and vocal group of students. In this spirit, the ‘Campaign Against the Arms Trade York’ group will carry forward the momentum produced by this campaign.”
The successful NO campaign in turn argued that turning away a company as successful as BAE would hinder University of York students’ employment prospects in the future. They declared that BAE is not the evil company the YES campaign portrayed them to be – they pay billions in tax, abide by strict EU and MoD regulation and conduct research that benefits areas as diverse as IT and healthcare.
Matthew Kilcoyne spoke to Vision on behalf of the NO campaign.
“We are very happy that the student population has seen the potential damage that this motion could have done to the University, and have taken it into their own hands to not be dominated by a very vocal minority.”