A group of anti-arms investment campaigners have been committing acts of graffiti on University property. The acts come in response to the University’s decision to review the way it invests money.
Last Friday night, graffiti appeared on Magdalen, St John’s, New College, Teddy Hall and Jesus colleges, as well as on the Sheldonian. The campaigners were protesting against what they argue are unethical investments by certain Oxford colleges and by the University.
Magdalen, St John’s, New, Nuffield, St Anthony’s, Corpus Christi, and Wolfson all invest more than £100,000 in companies that deal with arms manufacturing or arms dealing, such as BAE Systems and VT Group, according to figures collected by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).
The University does have a Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee, which is currently being re-examined. Campaigners wanted to raise awareness of the issue ahead of the review. One activist, who wished to remain anonymous said, “Basically, we think that as members of the University, students shouldn’t have to feel associated with such an immoral and destructive business, and that it is therefore our duty to campaign until these policies are changed. The first step in this campaign is to let people know (because most don’t).”
BAE Systems have a history of unscrupulous dealings, and are currently being investigated about allegations that they bribed many countries from Africa, to the Middle East and Eastern Europe in order to secure contracts. The University also has more than £5 million invested in other arms companies in the UK and USA, according to CAAT figures.
The activist said, “We think ‘ethical investments’ don’t include companies whose explicit purpose is to produce weapons that kill not just other soldiers, but innocent civilians.”
Emily Middleton, President of Oxford University Amnesty International said, “I believe every college should have a policy of ethical investment, and should look carefully at exactly what their money is funding.
Each year, at least a third of a million people are killed directly by arms and many more are injured, abused, forcibly displaced and bereaved as a result of armed violence. There is simply no excuse for colleges investing in corporations that could be fuelling this deadly trade.”
A spokesperson for the university said “the University supports free speech within the law; indeed, reasoned debate is central to University life. However, the University condemns illegal actions (such as vandalism).”