A small group of around 15 people gathered early in the morning to protest against the University’s decision to allow a conference to be held by a company that they consider to be “arms manufacturers”.
Speaking to SCAN at the protest, Joe Rigby explained why the group had gathered. “We object to the presence of BAE Systems, arms manufacturers, on our campus. We think their presence undermines the idea of a university as a site of free and critical thinking and we call on University administration to reconsider their relationship with BAE Systems and to reconsider any future events like this on our campus” he said.
Rigby went on to explain how they had discovered the conference was going ahead. “Yesterday morning one of my friends was having breakfast in the LICA building and saw the BAE Systems signs going up so he came and spoke to me. We came down together and had a look and basically by doing a bit of detective work we found out it was starting at 10AM this morning so we arranged a protest very quickly. We only arranged it yesterday, which is why there’s only a small number here”.
The secrecy of the conference booking was one of the factors that the protesters were disappointed with. One protester called Julian said that the conference “had been kept secret – no-one knew about it. The University and the company’s website say nothing about it. We only found out about it by chance. It’s not a coincidence it’s off term-time and we just oppose for this event to take place”.
The protest began at 9AM and targeted BAE staff as they walked across the bridge to enter the LICA building. Sean, another protester, explained that whilst “most of the staff are blanking us, it’s great that we’ve got a presence right outside the door of the conference”.
It is not the first time that Lancaster University students have objected to BAE Systems appearing on campus. In October 2007, students protested at the presence of BAE Systems at a careers fair in the Great Hall. Students unveiled a banner that read ‘Get a career in killing with BAE Systems’.
At the time of the protest, CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) declared that the protest was the beginning of a sustained campaign against the University’s investment in BAE. The group were unhappy at the university’s decision to offer a ‘BAE Systems Certificate in Management’ from the Lancaster University Management School.