The Union and the arms companies

Union Council’s recent decision to ban societies
from being sponsored by arms companies has
sparked controversy, rekindling the flames of the
ethics vs. finances debate. Indeed, the Boar is no
unaffected bystander in this matter; advertising
constitutes a significant portion of our revenue
–most of which goes on printing expenses. In a
pre-existing policy banning oil sponsorship we
have had to decline adverts from Shell, which
would have paid for at least one issue’s publica-
tion. Financial concerns are no small considera-
tion for a society such as ours, even more so for
the Students’ Union itself. Thus, it is in the con-
text of financial dire straits – the much bandied
‘Union deficit’ of recent electoral concern – that
our SU President’s opposition to the motion
must be viewed.

Our appreciation of this cannot extend to
endorsement though. It is unequivocally the
opinion of the Boar that the motion banning
arms sponsorship is just and necessary. No such
policy was previously in place with regards to
societies, though an implicit non-tolerance was.
It is therefore unlikely that any societies will be
negatively affected by the reification of policy.
The opposition camp within Council will no
doubt chorus that freedom of choice is being
impeded, and that disaffiliations are imminent.
Of course, these remain a possibility, though
their likelihood is minimal.

The debate would seem to boil down to the
role of the Union, as either a political, ideologi-
cally driven organisation, or neutral facilitative
vessel for students’ views. Of course, this is
something of a false dichotomy. The decision
not to take a stance is of itself inherently politi-
cal. The decision taken by Council in the same
session to review its dropping of the pledge for
a tuition fee cap is encouraging also. Students’
Unions should lead the debate on ideological
and political issues.

The ban on arms trade sponsorship is a vital
step in raising awareness about the dubious eth-
ical track records of many of the companies still
welcomed to Warwick at careers events. Hope-
fully students will consider the implications of
their work, rather than mimicking the calls for a
lift on the sponsorship ban. Every decision, and
every action has a consequence, and the price of
our tacit support for the arms trade is more than
our own societies’ financial troubles.


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