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Union Votes Against Military Ban
May. 5, 2008

STUDENTS VOTED against a proposal to ban the military from the University campus last Wednesday.

The proposal, tabled at the last general meeting of the Students' Union this year, had caused much controversy across campus over the previous week, attracting national media attention.

Though "not about banning the OTC" according to UMSU Campaigns Officer Andy Cunningham, the University Officer Training Corps was noticeably present along with members of the University's Royal Naval Unit (URNU).

In only the second of six general meetings this year to reach the 300 person quorum, the motion proposed not only banning the military from recruiting on the University campus but also, in unison with the Stop The War Coalition, campaigning to get the military out of Iraq and Afghanistan and not to attack Iran.

A speaker from the floor asked if, instead of banning the military, the proposal should be to ban the Labour Club, as it was their party who had initiated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In response Andy Cunningham said that he would not ban an organisation because of its political views. He later told Student Direct: "The distinction should be drawn between soldiers and people in power…. It's standing in solidarity with [the soldiers] that this motion has been put forward."

Third year student and Mess President of the URNU Rita Bulusu argued that students were old enough to make their own choices. "It's great to see that students can differentiate between the opportunities for students and the war in Iraq," she told Student Direct.

Dan Bradley, who is not affiliated with the military but also spoke against the motion, noted that the best opposition to war is to "support the troops and oppose the war".

Bradley said: "To learn to fly a plane you'd have to fork out £3,000. The University Air Squadron teaches you to do that for free."

Later he added: "I suspect a lot of people, like me, see the good work that the OTC and URNU does with students. These people would come out, when those things were threatened, who wouldn't come out to oppose the regular rubbish that goes on at this Union," Dan told Student Direct.

The meeting overwhelmingly rejected the proposals to ban the military, with a clear majority against the plans.

Also failing to win the vote of Union members was a proposal to renew the Union's free education policy, but only by a small majority of 40 votes.

Proposer Sundara Jerome and seconder Tom Skinner struggled to answer questions about how free education would be paid for and repeatedly misquoted their figures.

Chris Jenkinson, Academic Affairs Officer elect, gave a passionate speech about the unworkable nature of the proposal.

"Going Green", a motion proposed by next year's Communications Officer Robbie Gillett, was the only motion to be passed at the meeting.

Not a single person voted against the plans, thereby winning the support of all 300 people present at the meeting.

After the first three motions were discussed, the meeting lost quorum and could not continue.




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© Girish Gupta