Power of student action forces university to divest its holdings in major arms companies

Feb 27 2009 by Lisa Jones, South Wales Echo

Power of student action forces university to divest its holdings in major arms companies

A THREE-DAY sit-in by students protesting against their university”s investment in major arms companies has ended.

Cardiff Students Against War yesterday finished its occupation of the Shandon Lecture Theatre in Cardiff University”s main building on Park Place after bosses agreed to pull funds out of two companies.

Cardiff University has given students written confirmation that they have divested from the arms trade and have instructed fund managers not to reinvest.

Johnny, a spokesman for the coalition, said: “The mood has been very upbeat throughout. People have felt that what they are doing is really achieving something.

“They felt they”ve made a difference.

“There”s been a buzz around the campus.

“It certainly shows that student activism is on the increase.”

During the sit-in, the 100 or so participants listened to talks from visitors, took part in a live link-up with Gaza and watched documentaries about the conflict in the Middle East. A student spokeswoman, who did not want to be named, said: “The university conceded to our key demand which was to divest from the arms trade. They have sold all their shares in BAe and General Electric and instructed their fund managers not to invest in the arms trade.

“This is a major success for the occupation.

“We”ve been the most successful across the UK. It confirms the power of student action. A lot of us have been campaigning against the arms trade for some time.

“We”ve been consistently ignored by the university. They have forced us to take this action.

“It”s not interested in the will of the student, which is why we were forced to take action.”

The sit-in began on Tuesday when students massed outside their union building with a Books Not Bombs protest, where students brought along a book to signify their support for education, not war.

They claimed the university had money invested in BAe Systems and General Electric, which it accuses of supplying military equipment to Israel.

They were refusing to leave the lecture theatre until their demands were met. They were also calling for Cardiff University to be twinned with Gaza and for five students from the troubled region to be given scholarships at Cardiff University.

It is the 28th such protest to take place on campuses around the United Kingdom.

A Cardiff University spokesman said: “In the course of the last few days the University”s investment managers have divested the University of its holdings in both BAe and the infrastructure arm of General Electric.”

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