UEA Student Union attempts to ban Cambridge University armed forces societies

Judith Welikala, Tessa Evans and Emily Loud 3 November 2011

The University of East Anglia (UEA) Student Newspaper Concrete has revealed that Norwich based members of the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, Cambridge University Air Squadron and Cambridge University Royal Naval Unit, found themselves subject to a motion at UEA Student Union demanding the society’s membership should be subjected to a campus wide recruitment ban.

While the motion did not pass, the piece highlighted ongoing student concerns that the motion will reappear on the agenda at the next meeting of the Student Union Council. Membership to these Cambridge University societies often extends throughout the East Anglia region. The UEA Student Council motion outlined a number of reasons to prevent the societies from recruiting, including the UEA Students’ Union’s alignment with the Stop The War Coalition. The motion was subsequently amended to demand that recruitment activity of these student groups should be restricted to the UEA Careers fair and exclude their presence from the Union Freshers’ Fair.

Concrete reported that the motion accused the Cambridge OTC, Air Squadron and RN Unit of employing a membership recruitment strategy based on “economic conscription” and accused the groups of “deliberately exploiting the fears many students have of increasing fees and low levels of graduate employment, and is both misleading and unethical.”

Speaking exclusively to The Cambridge Student, the commanding officer for Cambridge OTC Colonel Pollington said, “Cambridge UOTC which has included the University of East Anglia (UEA) since 1981, welcomed the failure of a motion on Thursday 20 October to ban its presence at Union Events.

We should like to reiterate to all students at UEA, with whom the OTC enjoys considerable popularity, that it is dedicated to developing personal and leadership skills in university students and offering them life opportunities which would otherwise not normally be within reach. The role of the OTC is not to recruit into the Armed Forces but rather to introduce those attributes which Army officers depend upon for their success.”

In contrast, a Cambridge graduate who declined to be named, said, “Army recruitment is a totally unethical and untenable activity; it plays on the hopes, fears and aspirations of young people, often preying on the poorest and most underprivileged elements of society. Army recruitment uses a mixture of glamorous images, macho-masculine ideals, and promises of education and skills which the youth of today are so desperate for, but are increasingly denied access to by devastating government cuts to education. It is through such tactics that young people are drawn into a life of brutality and trauma, which, far from preparing them for a positive life-long careers, has astoundingly negative impacts on their lives.”

Judith Welikala, Tessa Evans and Emily Loud