WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED ON CAMPUS ON 20 NOVEMBER 2013?

Today is the first anniversary of protests against the military business and arms trade event ‘DPRTE2013’. Those protests were successful because we kicked DPRTE out of campus and Bristol, but the silencing of the repression we faced, and the still ongoing suppression of the subsequent campaign for an independent review remains an unresolved issue.
To mark this date, and as part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about these issues and hold the university accountable, we re-publish below the text that some of us wrote on the evening of the 20 November 2013 in an attempt to reach out to UWE students, and that very few people have still read to this date.
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WONDERING WHAT WAS GOING ON ON CAMPUS TODAY?

Today, UWE hosted a military business fair inside its conference centre, the ECC. This fair is an event for military and business worlds to meet. It happened on Frenchay campus and we think, first and foremost, that it should be a place of learning. The presence of companies infamously affiliated with, or active within, the arms trade (such as Thales and Raytheon) shows us that this was NOT, as we have been assured, a simple trade fair, but a meeting  between private businesses who are funding military operations all over the world, be it through industrial association or active involvement.

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Student banner at the entrance of UWE’s ECC on 20 Nov: ‘WAR is BUSINESS and RESEARCH’,  from CAAT Blog

This morning, we staged a peaceful protest outside the North and East entrances to Frenchay campus, as well as outside the main entrance to the ECC building to express our anger and disgust at what was, in effect, an event endorsing the expansion and technologies of the defense industry on a university campus.One protester was arrested and one of our friends, a UWE student, suffered a bleeding injury after being hit by a conference participant. UWE security and police prioritised the military business fair over our safety and freedom of expression. Many of us were recorded on video by special intelligence-gathering police and some were even harassed. Is this freedom of expression? Both UWE and UWESU were informed about attacks on our bodies, but they apparently had more important business to attend. This is the UWE student experience!

We are really shocked by what happened today and we need to get some rest. Beyond these scandalous attacks and threats, we shouldn’t also forget the issues that we attempted to air today. We denounce UWE’s irresponsible strategy of furthering a business agenda at the detriment of courses, students, staff, the quality of education, critically important research, and sustainability. With the hosting of this fair and, among other things, their approval of the tripling of tution fees two years ago, we consider that UWE management have demonstrated their priorities clearly: prioritise business of any kind even at the detriment of the physical integrity and the freedom of expression of a handful of students who did their utmost best to air very important points, despite systematic silencing,  hostility and even sometimes aggression.

For this reason, we need to stand up and speak out against the present and future involvement of our university with businesses and projects such as those present today. This is not just about one event, it is about maintaining the solidarity of students, staff and people all over the country and the world in the face of corporate greed.

WANT TO TAKE ACTION OR FIND OUT MORE?

PLEASE READ OUR BLOG (https://network23.org/uwe-struggles) AND SPREAD INFORMATION ABOUT IT AROUND YOU

Sign our petition on change.orghttp://qr.net/uweagainstmilitarybusiness

Email Us if you want to help! : uwe.better.together@gmail.com

Read our blog, share it, and link to it :network23.org/uwe-struggles

Facebook (No WMDs at UWE) and Twitter (@uwestruggles)

Email a personal or public message of solidarity

UWE UCU: How to survive casualised contracts?

The UWE branch of the lecturers’ union (UWE UCU) is organising an event on 5 November 12-1pm to discuss the rights, practical tips and how UCU can help people on casualised contracts.

If you are an associate lecturer, a researcher or an ‘HPL’ (Hourly Paid Lecturer), this meeting is for you. This is an open meeting and you are welcomed even if you are not a UWE UCU member.

Rooms:

  • 2A027 (Frenchay)
  • 1B06 (Glenside)
  • 1B3 (Bower Ashton)

Bring lunch. Coffee, tea and biscuits provided.

Reasonable travel expenses covered (bring receipts/tickets/mileage)

UWESU’s VP Education challenges overly enthusiastic student satisfaction report

Featured picture from JJ Clark’s 2014 video campaign statement on Youtube.

On the front page of the WesternEye’s September 2014 issue, Philip Mansell signed an enthusiastic article entitled ‘UWE student success and satisfaction soars’. The article is also available online here.

However, on 21 October 2014, Mansell’s enthusiastic piece was fundamentally challenged by UWESU’s VP Education JJ Clark on his blog.  Clark wrote that “the discussions I’ve been having with staff and students over last few months paint a rather different picture than the one outlined in Philip Mansel’s article” and stressed that, actually, “UWE has slipped 2% in overall satisfaction of their students to 84%, which is 2% lower than the sector average.”

To read Clark’s post, click here.

 

Student whose foot was “run over by a car” during peaceful protests against ‘UWE arms fair’ describes lack of support from UWESU and UWE

Featured image from southerngeekgirl blog.

Almost a year has passed since the repression of peaceful student protests against DPRTE aka the ‘UWE arms fair’ on campus on 20 November 2013, and the launch of the campaign for an independent review into those events.

We’ve sent an open letter to UWE’s Vice-Chancellor and to the Board of Governors and both have ignored us. The university’s spokesperson even claimed that UWE had no information about student concerns after we sent the open letter to the VC, and that he received no information about it from UWE Students’ Union (UWESU) even though the five elected student presidents did receive a comprehensive account of those events from participants on 21 November 2013.
We have asked our student newspaper to relay our story and arguments but the Western Eye — UWE’s self-proclaimed “totally independent student newspaper” — have dismissed our campaign even though we have had local, national and international media coverage. Like the student newspaper, our Students’ Union has silenced us, making it  very hard for us to reach the wider student body. On a more positive note, we have recently learnt that the local branch of the University and College Union (UWE UCU) wrote to UWE to inform them that they are now supporting our campaign and that  they too are demanding an independent review. However, UWE has also been ignoring them so far.
As a further step in this campaign, one UWE student who participated to those protests agreed to anonymously share the witness statement s/he wrote.
When arriving at the arms fair, early at around there was already somebody trouble occurring with the peaceful protesters and the police, causing one person to be arrested. This however did not stop the peaceful protesting and things did not become tense because of this. Many issues arose that day, one of the biggest ones for me being the lack of help and protection from the UWESU.
I was unlucky enough to get my foot run over by a car, with the UWE security turning a blind eye to this. Me and a few others were peacefully holding a banner from one side of the gate to another, when the man in the car become inpatient and frustrated. This then led the man in the car to attempt to drive very very close to me, which I then quickly realised was becoming unsafe for me as he showed no sign of stopping. I then tried to move out of the way when his car was almost touching me, but I could not move my foot in time which then led it to be ran over. I then approached the mans car, asking him why he didn’t stop. He stated that ‘he was in a rush’ and ‘I was going to damage his car’. I am in no way someone who would damage someones car and I certainly wasn’t giving off the signals that day that it was my intention.
Following this matter, the police took my details and asked what happened. I was very upset and concerned that even though the event took place right in front of the UWE security desk at the north entrance, not one member of staff from UWE or UWESU approached me or showed any concern for my wellbeing.

Protest held against UWE’s decision to host UK’s ‘sixth biggest arms company’

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Bristol City Hall during a talk by the CEO of QinetiQ (experts in defence, aerospace and security), Leon Quin, last Thursday 9th of October. According to Campaign Against Arms Trade, QinetiQ is the sixth biggest arms company in the UK. The event was organised by the University of the West of England (UWE) as part of the Bristol Distinguished Address Series that happen annually.

Read more on the WesternEye’s website.

 

A closer look at UWE Bristol’s “Distinguished Address Series”

Since 2008, UWE’s Bristol Business School has been running the so-called “Bristol Distinguished Address Series“. This series is described by the university as “a unique opportunity to hear about the challenges, issues and decisions being made at the highest level of strategic leadership” and promoted as an opportunity to “meet leaders of industry“. However, more than a platform enabling and relaying the university’s pro-business agenda, this series has featured several arms companies.

On 16 October 2014, as part of the so-called “Bristol Distinguished Address Series“, UWE Bristol hosted Leo Quinn, the CEO of QinetiQ. QinetiQ is the 6th largest UK arms company  according to tCampaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), and the 52th biggest global defence company by revenue according to Defence News’ Top 100 for 2012. Qinetiq prides itself on its expertise designing weapons, and for providing facilities and products for testing weapons. It is a close partner of the Ministry of Defence, from which it received £998m in 2013 as the third five-year term payment of a 25-years long partnering agreement.

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A postcard produced by campaigners highlights the kind of technology QinetiQ makes its business from, and how it is used. Source: Better Together.

This is not the first time UWE invites this particular arms dealer. On 28 October 2009, the same “distinguished address” series invited Graham Love, then QinetiQ’s Chief Executive Officer. Interestingly, one day after being celebrated as an exemplary business leader at UWE, Graham Love would quit his job after the company was criticised for “fail[ing] to properly fulfil its duties as an independent advisor” in the investigation of the Nimrod plane crash that claimed 14 lives.

Qinetic_and_friendsFrom left to right: Jane Harrington (Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of UWE’s Faculty of Business and Law and UWE Governor), Graham Love (CEO of  QinetiQ), John Rushforth (UWE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor) and Nicholas O’Regan (UWE Professor at Bristol Business School and founder of the “Distinguished Address Series”). Picture taken the day of Graham Love’s speech on 28 October 2009 at UWE Bristol (Frenchay campus), and one day before the CEO of QinetiQ quit his job following the Nimrod plane crash scandal. Picture from UWE Bristol Business School flickr account.

QinetiQ is also not the only arms dealer UWE has hosted as part of this “lecture” series. Past guests have included BAE Systems (3rd biggest global defence company according to Defence News’2012 ranking), Boeing (2nd biggest according to the same ranking), nuclear specialists Babcock, (32nd biggest) or  Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S, self-described as a “bespoke trading entity” of the MoD with an annual budget of £14 billion). Besides speakers from the arms trade, the series also featured managers of “distinguished” businesses such as Tesco, Hilton or Lloyds Banking Group.

The Bristol Distinguished Address Series (also sometimes referred to as Distinguished Executive Address Series, DEA) has been running since at least 2008. According to David Pinchard, the series was launched by Nicholas O’Reagan, a Professor at Bristol Business School. Achieved in partnership with pro-business organisations such as Business Westthe UK’s top business lobbying organisation, the Institute of Directors, or Bristol Junior Chamber, it  is UWE Bristol’s event to engage with, celebrate and facilitate big business, thus contributing to the university’s pro-business “partnership” strategy.

Thus, while those events are branded as a “lecture” and promoted to students as a “a unique opportunity to hear about the challenges, issues and decisions being made at the highest level of strategic leadership”, they are also advertised to the business community as a social and networking event complete with “wine and canapes”: After every event there is an opportunity to network and build up your business industry contacts.

For the university, it seems that any business goes. Distinguishing such managers and setting them as models is completely unproblematic. Hence, for example, QinetiQ’s talk was about “cultural transformation”. The fact that QinetiQ makes huge profits through developing, testing and manufacturing arms was written off the event’s description, UWE speaking instead of the country’s “largest research and technology organisation”. Moreover, the university’s spokesperson claimed that the event represented the university’s “culture of free and open discussion. UWE Bristol thus not just trivialises the arms trade, but celebrates and furthers  corporate greed including profiteers from the business of death, under the pretence of democracy.

Does a speech by a business manager constitute democratic debate? Should UWE keep celebrating and enabling the arms trade through its “distinguished” #BristolLecture series? Is it ok for a university to legitimise the arms trade, trivialising it and making it look respectable? Is it ok for a university to further the interests of any business? And should UWE’s “distinguished address series” host a high-ranking manager of British Petroleum on 11 February 2015, at the beginning of Bristol Green Capital? Let us know what you think over here and/or on twitter (#BristolLectures).

UWE UCU’s letter in support of independent review of ‘UWE arms fair’ protest repression

Almost a year has passed since DPRTE 2013 last November and the repression of peaceful student protests against the ‘UWE arms fair’ on campus. Even though UWE told us the governors were all sent our open letter arguing for an independent review of those events, the board of governors didn’t get back to us following their last meeting on 15 July and their draft minutes suggest that either our demand was not discussed, or it was discussed confidentially. This morning, we also got the confirmation that UWE UCU sent a letter of support (pasted below), and that they haven’t heard back either. To be continued …

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Sent to: Steve West (UWE VC) and Board of Governors

14 July 2014

For whom it may concern

As Chair of the Uwe Branch of the UCU, I write on behalf of our members to support any request that may have been made for a detailed inquiry into the events surrounding the Arms Fair that occurred on the 20th November 2013. The students involved will have provided a detailed account of the events of that day and of the matters about which they are most concerned. Whilst we had no direct involvement with those events as a Branch, we have student members of our Union who were witness to some of the events on that day and as academic members of staff at the University we are left rather non-plussed and concerned by those accounts. Whilst we are of course aware that there will be many different and undoubtedly competing versions of the events of that day it does seem to us that a clear and balanced clarification of what happened which allows all sides to share their stories would help to resolve this issue in a way that would reassure staff as to how security is operated on the campus and that freedom to campaign on issues of concern is maintained and enshrined as a right for all.

We believe that an inquiry, ideally with some independence from the University, is the best way to ensure these important outcomes for the future wellbeing of staff colleagues and students.

Yours sincerely,

Robert PARDOE

Senior Lecturer: Dept of Nursing and Midwifery

Chair: UWE Branch of the UCU