On Tuesday 1st November a group of students informally operating under the banner of Student Action Warwick (SAW) successfully shut down the STEM careers fair at the University of Warwick, in protest against the University’s partnerships with arms companies such as Rolls Royce and Moog. Students blockaded the entrances of the fair, holding banners emblazoned with “Arms Companies Off Campus” and “‘Good jobs’ don’t fuel war”, resulting in the fair being shut down halfway through its scheduled running time.
Following the action, SAW released a set of demands: the immediate termination of the University partnerships with Rolls-Royce and Moog through its Electro-mechanical engineering degree apprenticeship; a commitment to not inviting said companies to future careers events; and a release of a statement acknowledging the social and environmental impact that they have, noting the particular impact on Palestinian students and others whose countries bear the brunt of the global arms trade.
In an email sent to students on Thursday, the University stated that “This week we held a careers fair which was unfortunately cut short after being disrupted by a small group of protesters. Due to safety concerns, we were forced to end the careers fair earlier than planned.” They apologised for the inconveniences caused, arguing that “it can be in no-one’s interest to disrupt an event that we know you value and look forward to attending”, stating a desire to continue to provide similar events in the future.
One of the protesters, who wishes to remain anonymous, commented:
“We understand that people may feel upset at the disruption and that in a tough labour market and an economy geared against young people, people have real pressures on them to find well-paying jobs. However, we believe that the violence produced by Rolls Royce – who make engines used in F-35 fighter jets used to murder Palestinians – and Moog – who manufacture intercontinental ballistic missiles and are part of the Trident programme – mean that such disruptions are necessary. If the University truly cares about ‘safety’, it should end its ties with arms companies and stop inviting them to campus.
In a joint statement about the war in Ukraine, written with 9 other European universities, the University said that: ‘war is a catastrophe that kills people destroys infrastructures, damages confidence, and imposes a regression of the freedom of thinking, teaching and building together with young generations of students and researchers a better democratic world.’ We agree, and we refuse to stand by idly whilst our hypocritical University is complicit in war, settler-colonial oppression and ecological destruction through its partnerships with arms companies.”
This disruption follows a tradition of student protest against global injustices at Warwick, and is yet another episode in the current spike in student agitation against the arms trade across UK universities more broadly, with students at Bristol, Sheffield, Lancaster and Nottingham also protesting against arms companies at their respective careers fairs over the last month. SAW insist they will be back, and urge other students to join their cause.
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