Why you should vote down the politically charged BAE motion

Sadly, the opportunities of students at this university have been put at the forefront of a highly politicised BAE referendum debate.

Belmore argues that York graduates will not receive the same opportunities if we ditch BAE. ©John F. Williams

I know that many of my friends in Computer Science and Electronics have obtained work experience and career opportunities thanks to the research contracts the university holds with BAE. Unsurprisingly, they’re not too chuffed that a group of politics students are trying to take those opportunities away from them.

BAE is one of the UK’s largest employers, with a workforce of more than 40,000 people in the UK. Further to that, a study by Oxford Economics estimated that there are a further 50,000 jobs in the economy owing to BAE supply contracts. The same study also found that BAE research will add 1% to British GDP over the next twelve years – when times are tough that can be crucial.

I do not believe that the University of York should turn its back on this vital research. The study by Oxford Economics shows that BAE research is at the forefront of the development of some key civilian technologies such as “liquid armour” which has applications for our Police force and our Paramedics, development of unmanned aircrafts which will assist the fire-service, the border force and emergency rescue services.

Further, as someone who has visited Laos and seen the damage that unexploded landmines do on a daily basis – I know the difference the research on anti-IED devises will make. To make this broad assumption that any work for the BAE must be highly unethical simply does not stand up to the facts.

The harsh reality is that we are currently in one of the worst graduate job markets for decades. I have friends who are on to get fantastic degrees who have had more than forty job rejections. All students face that problem, regardless of whether you study politics or electronics, economics or computer science.

But for students in Computer Science and Electronics, the jobs, work experience and of course research that these contracts offer are invaluable. They give them a chance to get their foot in the door of the largest employer of engineers in this country, as well as enhancing their CV.

It is all very well for the yes campaign to tell you that these jobs will be “offset by an aggregate surplus in employment” when it’s not their jobs which are disappearing. Indeed an argument that BAE funding will simply be replaced elsewhere also seems fanciful - are we really expected to believe that the CS and Electronics department are sat there saying to companies "no, sorry, we won't take your research money because we already have too much money". It's simply not happening.

I could feasibly understand the yes campaign if they were campaigning against unethical research. Clearly, no one from any side of the argument believes that the University of York should be creating tanks for the Saudis or fighter-jets for Indonesian dictators. But that’s not what’s happening; the research is almost entirely non-military in purpose – not a single weapon is designed at this university. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that BAE today is bound by a triple lock of checks and regulations from the MoD, UK law and EU law.

Indeed it is worth noting that the ‘bogeyman’ presented by the ‘Yes’ campaign, Computer Science’s “Dependable Computer Systems Centre”, has won a Queen’s Award for Technology and its work has had applications for nuclear power plant safety, rail equipment safety and drug safety.

Indeed, why have the campaign chosen to pick out BAE from all of the research funders that the university has? There are plenty of companies that the university engages with that have questionable backgrounds. Yet it seems the opportunities students get with BAE has been chosen as the target purely because it is a member of the arms industry, regardless of what the research is actually about.

Indeed the fact that the ‘Yes’ campaign have used “disarm our university” as their catchphrase shows that this referendum is about playing politics with the opportunities available to York students. I hope you’ll stand in support of the Computer Science and Electronics students who have done nothing unethical and vote down this politically charged motion.

You can find the 'No' Campaign Facebook page here

You can read 'Why you should vote Yes to Disarming the University' here and a more general reflection on the debate here

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