Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Student Union to lobby University and colleges to cut ties with “unethical” companies, including Home Office

The Student Union (SU) has voted in favour of the “Divestment” motion that mandates SU Sabbatical Officers to lobby Oxford University and its colleges to sever all ties with any company or organisation meeting certain criteria – including those “which a reasonable person would believe to be involved in unethical conduct.” The SU will push Oxford to stop investing in, renting space to, accepting funding from, and collaborating through career services with such entities.

The motion – passed with 21 in favour, 6 against, and 3 abstaining – was proposed by the newly elected NUS Delegate Luca Di Bona at a 30 January Council meeting. It names the UK’s Armed Forces, Police Force, Intelligence Agencies, Home Office, and the Department for Work and Pensions as off-limits. Other criteria specify entities that are proven to take away the rights of the individual, manufacture torture equipment, or derive more than 10% of their profits from armaments, fossil fuels, et cetera.

This follows last term’s SU policy “Reform to the Ethical Code of Practice for Commercial Activities,” which restricts the companies and organisations the SU may have ties with. The SU now believes, according to the motion, that the University should also end its relationship with “organisations that the SU will not work with on ethical grounds.”

At the meeting, Di Bona was asked whether the motion applies to companies that give scholarships to students, to which they responded: “The University’s choice to work with these [arms] companies to get scholarships may reduce the time and effort it spends to achieve other scholarships from ethical backgrounds.”

A voting member of the SU who voted against the motion told Cherwell: “It was raised in the Student Council meeting that the divestment motion was extremely broad, to the extent that it seemed imprecise in its application. Divestment only represents a proper censuring of unethical business practice where it is targeted, so that businesses know why they are being divested.”

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “All Oxford University research is academically driven, with the ultimate aim of enhancing openly available scholarship and knowledge. Donors have no influence over how Oxford academics carry out their research, and major donors are reviewed and approved by the University’s Committee to Review Donations and Research Funding, which is a robust, independent system taking legal, ethical and reputational issues into consideration before gifts are accepted.

“Much of our overseas collaborative research addresses global challenges such as climate change and major health problems where international involvement is important in delivering globally relevant solutions.”

Di Bona told Cherwell that the divestment motion has precedence in Cardiff University’s 2009 decision to cut financial ties with arms companies. They said: “I’m aware that’s going to be a long process, and it’s an iterative process, so what we’ll see is strong negotiations between the SU and University that give us small wins.”

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles