Last Thursday saw the latest action by the campaigning group Weapons out of Warwick, as they protested at the Careers Fair against the presence of several companies that they considered to have unethical practices.
Working from a stand outside the Rootes Building, the protestors prepared a booklet called ‘Fair Information,’ a guide to the ethical conduct of the companies at the fair. Criticism was particularly directed against BAE Systems, who were accused of corruption, fraudulent behaviour, and the sale of arms to repressive regimes.
The climax of the protest involved a group of students performing what is known as a ‘die-in.’ They fell screaming to the floor adjacent to the BAE Systems stand inside the fair, while one student began to shout at top voice about abuses within BAE – before the protestors were ushered out by a mixed group of campus security and police officers.
That student, Owen Everett, told The Boar that the protest intended to “inform Warwick students about how unethical many of the companies represented at the fair were, and question the
University’s close links with those companies.”
Another protestor was unequivocal about the University’s role. Chris Rossdale, a PHD student who has been involved in Weapons out of Warwick for five years, talked of an “information blackout… that the University seems happy to hide behind,” and claimed that “it’s a shame that the careers service doesn’t fulfil their responsibility to adequately inform students…[about] the disgraceful ethical records of many of these companies.”
He said that in the long term the group would like to see many of the companies that they classified as unethical – a list that included BAE Systems, Caterpillar Inc., Nestle, Tesco and a number of banks – banned from Careers Fairs.
The Boar tried to contact BAE Systems to ascertain their views on the matter, but received no response.
Peter Dunn, the University’s Head of Communications, responded to the concerns of the protestors: “We have seen protests by some students at these events with various objections about various companies for some years now. We have also seen a great many more students also attend these events as they see the very same companies as potentially providing them with great career opportunities.”
One engineering undergraduate agreed, commenting that “with the job market like it is, I can’t afford to be picky. These companies aren’t going to change without people who care about ethical issues working for them anyway.”
Regardless, the activists considered their action a success, with Matthew McNeany commenting that “it was great to see that so many students reacted positively and engaged with what we were doing.” The ‘die-in’ met a round of applause, and several onlookers booed security as they stopped the demonstration.
The protest was called by members and associates of People & Planet Society, and was publicised by Warwick Hub, the new support network for ethical societies and projects.