Arms Companies Return To Campus


The Engineering, Computing and Science Career’s Fair on February 2nd will once again see a host of arms companies arriving on campus to recruit students.

Among the 53 companies attending are six considered arms companies by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), although many are involved in other businesses as well. The controversial BAE Systems will be in attendance and the other companies are DSTL, QinteQ, Jaguar Land Rover, Thales and Selex Galileo.

The previous careers fair was met with opposition from SUSU and a picket led jointly by Amnesty International, Green Action and Socialist Students. Currently it is unknown whether there will be a repeat of the protest in February and SUSU’s position is complicated by the prospect of a motion at its meeting on January 31st challenging their opposition to arms companies.

The issue of the arms trade continues to split the student body, with some opposed to what they percieve to be an unethical and unaccountable industry, and others celebrating its ability to provide graduates with jobs.

In its letter to the University protesting about the last career’s fair, SUSU noted that the UK had licenced sales to 20 countries engaged in serious conflict since 1997, including Anglola, Sierra Leonne and Sri Lanka. They commented that the arms trade increases the chance of armed conflict and diverts money away from development in countries with pressing social needs.

The issue of military spending by our government and excessive tax breaks given to large arms companies has also come under the spotlight, with CAAT launching a petition to persuade the government to focus the tightened national budget on other areas.

However some engineering students have been reported emphasising the employment and sponsorship oppurtunities the companies provide.     

Announcements of any action and SUSU’s response will be published in due course.


Discussion14 Comments

  1. avatar

    I don’t feel like joining an arms company right after graduating, but I think students have the right to be informed about career opportunities in these. In the end, applying for a job in one of these companies remains a personal choice.

    It is also funny to see the socialist students in these protests because arms and war are bad. I’d like to know how a marxist movement is planning on doing a revolution without arms… Or maybe socialist students just don’t have a clue of what socialism is and found Che Guevara T-shirts cool, I don’t really know. As some guy in China once said: “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery[…]”. Anyway, in the end they’ll all end up voting for the tories when they’ll be 40, have a house, a car, two mortgages and kids.

    • avatar
      Peter Apps

      The approach of the protestors last time had more to do with informing students than chasing the arms companies away. If you read the prospectuses they were handing out, you probably would have had no idea they were the slightest bit untoward (Lockheed Martin were talking up their role in the postal service), so the aim was really to give students the alternative view before they signed their life away.
      Also, you don’t have to be a pacifist to be opposed to arms dealers. A lot of the socialist students feel that big companies profitting from arming states who then use the arms to repress their people goes straight against their principles, and they have a pretty clear idea of what socialism is. A lot of socialists are also humanists, and the two philosophies run together in a lot of ways.

      • avatar

        You can’t say in your article that SUSU and these organisations were “opposing” these companies, report SUSU is asking for a ban of these companies on campus and then in your comment say that they were just here informing about them… Let’s be serious.

        Protesting against these companies is maybe not the right way of doing it. There are arms exportations regulations, if they are not strict enough, lobby your MPs to have tougher ones. If they are strict enough, lobby your MP for a better enforcement of these.

        The good thing with arms manufacturers is that they don’t have as much freedom as other companies if they want to move to another country.

        And Southampton uni Socialists do sound a lot more like Socio-democrats in my opinion.

        • avatar
          Peter Apps

          SUSU opposed them, the protestors opposed their presence but the effect of the actions was just to present another point of view.
          Lobbying MPs is a very slow and ineffective way of getting things done. They don’t tend to listen or do anything. Maybe rather than constantly bowing to the hierarchy of representative government, we should act on our own morality.
          I don’t really understand the point of your last two paragraphs, but I can assure you socialist students are bona fide socialists. The philosophy is pretty compatible with opposition to arms companies, which is very much a product of free market capitalism.

  2. avatar

    I feel that pushing against the arms manufacturers is not a way to go, as weapons systems provide thousands of jobs and billions in revenue for England- possibly paying for our health care and other vital services. Of course ideally there would be no armed conflicts of genocide in the world, but that fact is, it is not the arms themselves, but governments and rebel groups which cause damage. for example many millions of our aid money goes to corrupt African governments who then go on to spend lavishly on palaces (my mother works for an airline which lifted 100 tonnes of marble to the Gabon, and miles of Chinese made carpets, which im guessing were not going to the local hospitals)
    All the governments in the world, be they allied or opposed to us sell weapons, it is for us to help the recipient countries become more responsible.

    • avatar

      I don’t agree that financial benefit really justifies it, but anyway the tax breaks given to large arms companies and the billions our government spend on arms tends to outweigh the benefits.
      It seems odd to suggest that because its not the arms but the people that use them that cause damage its ok. If you sold a knife to a gang knowing that were going to use it to stab someone, you would be culpable. Why should morality be any different with regard to businesses or governments? Is it really ok to just blame it on African countries when we’re participating and profiting from their actions?
      And there is no indication that the arms trade wants to make other countries more responsible. In fact market forces provide a considerable interest in the opposite.

      • avatar

        if a British company does not sell these weapons, who will. The Answer is China or Russia, who apart from America sell the most weapons to countries in civil war and those in genocide.
        The difference between a knife and a gun is also different, as no training is need to use a knife effectively and their sale is not closely regulated by the UK. British arms companies only sell to viable governments and not failed states like China and Russia does. The weapons that cause the most damage are land mines and Kalashnikovs- not Jets!

        • avatar

          “if a British company does not sell these weapons, who will. The Answer is China or Russia, who apart from America sell the most weapons to countries in civil war and those in genocide… the weapons that cause the most damage are land mines and Kalashnikovs- not Jets!”

          Tell that to the residents of East Timor, who experienced a UN recognised genocide by an Indonesian military who had bought much of their armoury from Britain and used Birtish made fighter jets to raze scores of villages to the ground. Oh, and Indonesia was an oppressive dictatorship at the time and in the midst of several civil wars and independence movements. I could name some more examples of other conflicts and oppressive countries who have likewise used British arms here, but British arms traders are not the noble humanitarians you suggest.

        • avatar

          Yeah, echo MG’s point.

          Also very confused as to how fighter jets cause less damage than Klashnikovs. I would add to the list the Gaza war in January 2009 where 1000 civillians were indescriminately wiped out by the jets of a country we sell arms to. And here is a list of people we’ve traded with since 1997:

          Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uganda and Zimbabwe

          Can see a few less than viable governments in that list.

  3. avatar

    Regardless of your opinion of the military industry, I don’t think it’s any of your business trying to ban these companies from recruiting on campus – our students should be able to have the fullest selection of careers, without know-it-all protestors standing between them. Our engineering students are amongst the brightest in the country and are fully capable of researching the companies involved and reaching a personal moral decision.

    As it happens, I do disagree with the extent that our military is privatised; a private firm lacks the strict democratic accountability and national allegiance of governmental departments – but regardless, my opinion is my own, and everyone has the right to their own, and if someone wants to work for such a company, that is completely their own personal decision.

  4. avatar

    The whole point of a democratic country is that people should not be discriminated against, if you don’t like arms companies then simply don’t join one, there are many people who would like to and that is their business it is an exciting field but there are ethical issues so it is up to each student to weigh them based on their own beliefs. I personally applied for a BAE apprenticeship as a possible alternative if I did not get a place at Southampton, when I went to meet them it was emphasised that there were different areas and I was asked which I would like to do some of which were military and some of which were entirly benign, there is a lot of work going on at BAE on many projects not arms related and it is wrong to deny them the opportunity to recruit altogether just because there are sections of the organisation that are not compulsory that some people don’t agree with. Would you deny bread manufacturers just because they may happen to sell to the army or ship builders that also perform some navy contracts. In any institution it is your right to refuse to do something on ethical grounds so there is no problem with them being offered, even if you join the companies in question unaware of the possibly unethical sides you can still decline to take part in those aspects. Also computing would not be anyway near as advanced if not for the world wars requiring better and better technology, obviously I am not advocating wars but in the process of developing military jets very accurate sensors will be created these sensors are then often sold on to commercial airlines making commercial planes safer for everyone. When I went to the interview I was asked a question along these lines and learned about complex sensors for altitude monitoring which are now used to reduce crashing and in fact help planes land themselves. I would rather trust my life to that device with a human overseer that simply the human alone.

    There are advantages and there are disadvantages but in the end it is a restriction of freedom to ban the companies altogether, by all means have an information stand to inform students if you feel it necessary, that is your right but you don’t have the right to reduce job opportunities for students who may not share your point of view just because you don’t like someone.

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