To the University of Glasgow Court This email is being sent on behalf of the Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition’s 11 member societies and their members, and all those who have and continue to support our campaign. We write to entreat that you support our campaign’s position at the University Court meeting on June 23rd. At the meeting, the Defence Sector Working Group will present a report compiled over the course of 5 meetings. This report recommends that Court takes no action over the endowment fund’s free rein to invest in any and all arms manufacturers and military-services providers (other than those producing cluster bombs and other weapons which are excluded from most investment funds as standard practise). We have written to you to reaffirm the convictions which have inspired this campaign, convictions held by a broad majority of the student community, and which we hope are shared by those representing us and our interests at the highest level of decision making at the University. We also beseech the court to cast a critical eye over the report supplied by the Defence Sector Working Group. We believe that there is legitimate cause to disregard the report on the basis of misrepresentation, both of our position and of objective reality in its ahistorical analysis of warfare and defence. It is the opinion of the coalition that the failure to seriously consider the points put forward by students, the lack of transparency, and the disregard of the interests of key stakeholders should give serious cause for doubt over the conclusions drawn from the process. We first and foremost implore you to acknowledge and act upon the clear moral case which underpins our campaign. The tenacity with which we oppose the University’s investments in arms companies is stirred by the massive human suffering which is the necessary consequence of the proliferation of arms across the globe. Our submissions to the working group have documented horror and misery too numerous and detailed to replicate here, but we will restate their essential thrust in order that we might ensure that Court is aware of our position. Arms manufacturers create weapons because their sale reaps massive profits. Individuals and corporations benefit and see their lives materially enriched by the existence and operation of the arms trade. Their orientation toward profit precludes any vetting of clients on moral grounds. The natural result of this is that weapons are directly supplied to violent states and regimes, and therefore expended in such a manner. The companies against whom we rail have produced weapons involved in multifarious instances of horror, given the name ‘war crimes’ in those most public and well documented instances. The deployment of weaponry kills, maims, and displaces humans as physical bodies on a massive scale, while the psychological impact of their proliferation is incalculable. It is the conviction of the coalition that in order to deny the veracity of our position one must subscribe to a necessarily violent ideology, speaking to a troubling dissonance at the highest level of governance between the things the University claims to believe in and the violence it propagates. The weapons from whose sale the University profits are deployed in conflicts which produce the conditions forcing people to flee their homes and seek asylum as refugees. Companies in which the University invests such as DXC technology produce repressive border control software which actively block attempts to seek asylum and flee danger. The University claims in its Equality and Diversity policy that it will assist STAR in its attempts to ‘support and improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers’, while Section 3.9 of the Equality and Diversity policy states ‘the University will assess the impact of its policies and practices to identify and mitigate any disadvantage to protected characteristic groups(10).’ It is apparent that no such assessment has been carried out nor has contributed to the deliberations of the working group. Appendix K of the policy refers specifically to refugees and asylum seekers. Section K2.3 states ‘The University supports Glasgow Student Action for Refugees (STAR). STAR works to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers through volunteering, fundraising and campaigning.’ STAR is a member of the Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition, and their energy and compassion has been vital to the successes of our campaign thus far. To endorse the working group’s resolutions would contradict the University’s commitments to equality, and therefore preclude its capability of fulfilling such commitments. We expect the Court to give due weight to these moral considerations in the ways we believe the working group has failed to do. This email later refers to arguments put forward by the working group surrounding the endowment fund and widening participation which investment in the arms trade supposedly supports. It is thoroughly dissonant to support refugees and asylum seekers with money derived from the creation and maintenance of the conditions which have forced them to flee their homes and under which their relatives and communities continue to suffer. The University of Glasgow is also in the process of applying to become a University of Sanctuary for refugees, and is the closest of Glasgow’s universities to the city’s biggest asylum seeker and refugee community in Maryhill. Divestment in line with the University’s promise of refugee support and solidarity would surely consolidate the University’s commitments, while a failure to take action makes hollow such claims. We trust the court to scrutinise the working group’s conclusions with this in mind. Without dwelling too long on the ills spawned by the arms trade, it behooves us to once more remind the Court of the massive contributions of the military-industrial complex to the climate crisis. The discharge of munitions ruins ecosystems and spoils nature the world over, let alone the massive amounts of dangerous gas released into the air in the production and operation of military equipment. Closer to home, the Raytheon (in whom the University invests) factory in Fife is among the 12 biggest polluters in Scotland. The arms trade is an undeniable factor in driving the climate crisis. We would ask that you consider the dangerous precedent set by according the working group’s position weight. We also ask that you consider the strength of leadership you could show - as individuals and as a University amongst a community of other universities - by divesting. To reject the legitimacy of investing in the arms trade sets a bold standard for investment schemes which represent real people across the world. Setting a European precedent is now outwith the University’s reach given the University of Reading’s recent commitment to fully divest from the arms trade, and the similar (though not full) divestment pledges made by Leeds University, SOAS, Goldsmiths, Bangor, and University College London amongst others. However, the opportunity remains for the University of Glasgow to reaffirm the commitments set out in its own Equality & Diversity policy, Socially Responsible Investment policy and its declaration of a climate emergency by becoming the next UK, and first Scottish University to divest fully from the arms trade. On top of the irrefutability of our position, we would draw attention to the massive extracurricular commitments undertaken by the large number of students involved in organising and supporting this campaign, which is surely testament to the voracity of the faith in our campaign. There are a variety of University interests which stand in opposition to a decision which will force students to undertake another year of campaigning for more ethical investment practices at the University of Glasgow. We have attached a video of the photo petition which our coalition compiled across campus this winter in order to illustrate the breadth of this movement, which, through a significant social media base will without doubt continue to raise awareness of the inconsistencies of the University’s investments and its own policy. As we have been campaigning throughout this year, the reaction of those first learning of the University’s investment practices has consistently been one of shock. Such an impulse instantiated the dedication of so much time to this campaign and will continue to do so; there is a great need to inform the student population of this stain on the University. Early in the process of the working group’s deliberations we learned of the general direction in which discussions were heading, and sought to revise the parameters of exclusion in order to reach some sort of compromise, to at least foster some positive change. Our initial scope of exclusion was any company present on the SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) 100 database, an international standard for measuring weapons manufacturers by size and percentage of profits derived from the sale of weapons. The working group deemed this definition inadequate, and we therefore supplied a revision. This revision sets out those countries which appear on the UK Government Home Office’s annual human rights watch list and cross references it with countries to whom the UK Government also granted export licenses for the sale of arms in the same year that they appeared on the Home Office list. The reasoning behind this definition is expounded on in a letter presented to the working group, which we have attached to this letter. The working group did not shift in their evaluation of this new definition, a definition supplied by the UK government’s own determination of serious threats to human rights. Such dismissal appears to the coalition to be an endorsement of the inverse. Throughout this process the GUADC has felt as though the working group has abdicated its responsibility to represent and seriously consider our position. Our concerns about its viability were confirmed upon gaining access to those minutes cleared at the time of writing (we have yet to see the final two sets of minutes). That the working group was named the Defence Sector working group made immediately clear that the dangerous misconceptions we had encountered in our discussions with governance thus far would be carried forward. The term ‘defence sector’ is one which wholly erases its necessarily violent nature and implies, falsely, that the ‘good’ armed forces which it supplies use it for their defence, while in fact those forces often sustain and deepen armed conflict across the globe, as has been repeatedly evidenced by the coalition to the working group. This idea is mirrored in the rhetoric present in the minutes of the meeting January 24th which contain an argument painting divestment from arms companies as ‘socially irresponsible’ because such equipment could be ‘used for a raft of humanitarian activities’. This is an ahistorical argument and highlights a simple lack of knowledge about western humanitarian efforts. Beyond the working group’s name, a quibble which we doubt will stir Court too greatly, our coalition has encountered a lack of transparency in the interaction between the working group and the greater student body. As addressed in our latest letter to the working group, the lack of possibilities of involvement in the deliberations and decision-making processes of the working group has impoverished the understanding of our argument and shows an unwillingness to engage with a conceptualisation of divestment which goes beyond the economic. The pressing nature of these issues for students, and above all for those in countries affected by warfare fuelled by the University of Glasgow’s investments, could and should have been more fairly represented by involving student representation beyond the president of the SRC in the discussions. A university should not operate behind closed doors but emphasise transparency in all matters close to the concern of the student body. It is also telling that the University of Manchester’s recent (26th May) commitment to divest from fossil fuels and pursue carbon neutrality (a pursuit which would exclude the arms trade from their portfolio) was reached after widespread student and staff engagement, and serious consideration of the views gathered by the consultation process. One especially telling instance from the minutes we have thus far been granted is a list of pros and cons featured in section 3: Next Steps of the meeting of the Defence Sector Working Group on January 24th. The entry lists the pros and cons of restricting the endowment fund to exclude investment in the arms trade. The list of reasons against features four arguments and includes the humanitarian acts carried out by Western forces as a moral argument against divestment. The list of pros, meanwhile, features only one argument: that UofG’s reputation might be negatively impacted by not divesting. While ludicrous in the first place (in the eyes of the coalition) to deploy the argument that it is morally bad to divest from the arms trade on the basis that some of the equipment it produces is used for humanitarian ends, there is a much deeper issue exposed by this list. That the cons section features a ‘moral argument’ while the pros does not should deeply trouble every member of the court and cause them to question the legitimacy of the recommendation provided to them by the working group. There is no question that massive violence and untold tragedy is wrought by the equipment produced and distributed by the military-industrial complex, and for the working group to not consider this moral argument, while peddling that of humanitarian aid, speaks to deliberations devoid of any valuable logic. The employment of such poor discursive methods surely invalidates the conclusions drawn from them. We hope that you share our recognition of the flaws in this process and disregard entirely their recommendation. We also wish to draw attention to the classist rhetoric present in one of the arguments central to the Working Group’s decision. A line delivered repeatedly to us by David Ross in our physical encounters appears on multiple occasions in the minutes we have seen. The argument, seemingly accepted by most on the working group, flows thusly: the profits from the endowment fund are put towards poor students in the form of scholarships, hardship funds etc. (although the finance committee have been reticent in revealing the full breakdown of the beneficiaries of the fund), and to restrict the fund would risk cutting into the University's ability to support them and broaden access in general. While attractive on the surface, such thinking is in fact misleading and evades the reality of working class engagement with higher education. The argument actually reads, once broken down, that in order for poor people to receive the support they need to pursue an education, the University is obliged to invest in the arms trade and uphold the violence in which it is therefore complicit; that the arms trade’s profitability is necessary to break down access barriers to education. This argument is blind to the lived realities which the endowment fund exists to support, and that it appears to have been endorsed by the working group’s members speaks to their own investment in that twisted logic. Between the flawed process of the working group and the strength of our argument and the weight of all those who support it, we once more implore you to support our revised demands, which appear appended to the working group’s letter of recommendations, and to this email. We would finally call attention to the overlap between the profitability of the arms trade and the increasingly repressive tendencies of the United States of America. Arms company shares skyrocketed in the first few days of January upon Donald Trump’s war mongering tweets following heightened tensions with Iran. The threat of nuclear war made the University of Glasgow money. These companies also supply the racist US police force with munitions. This information has only come to our attention after the conclusion of the working group: Safariland, a subsidiary of BAE systems until 2012, jointly manufactures the gas canisters daily being discharged into crowds of American civilians. The discharge of this equipment by a military force would fall under the UN’s definitions of a war crime. The military-industrial complex has also experienced a soar in share prices during this period of massive deployment of police and National Guard (and the threat of the introduction of the military) on the street against US civilians. Donald Trump’s policies and tweets during this time have incited massive violence against those who oppose racism, and has also declared that those who consider themselves opposed to fascism are bad people unto whom violence ought to be done. By dint of its investments the University is wrapped up in this horrorscape. In its social media statement in response to the killing of George Floyd the University remarks on how appalled it is at the murder. In order to take tangible action to support the Black Lives Matter campaigns, one must go beyond two sentences on Twitter and Facebook. Divestment from the arms trade is an important first step in taking responsibility for the University’s investments’ role in the violent repression of Black and other ethnic minority people across the globe. The working group has not met with students beyond us, and has not made any attempts to gauge the wider student opinion regarding attending an institution complicit in the Arms Trade. We have. We have spoken to students regularly, all across campus, during the gathering of our 1773 petition signatures. We have seen the emotional impact of former Rolls-Royce worker John Keenan had as he spoke about Scottish solidarity with the Chilean people being killed by the aircraft whose engines he helped build at our film screening of Nae Pasaran to over 100 people in the Boyd Orr. We have strategised with our fellow students, sung with them, fundraised with them, informed them, and above all listened to them in the shaping of our demands. The plea to divest from the environmentally, socially and morally disastrous Arms Trade industry comes from the very people who constitute the University of Glasgow: its students. No longer should we feel shame at what this institution promotes and funds. No longer should we be complicit in the sustenance of ongoing humanitarian crises by our enrollment at the University of Glasgow. No longer should we benefit from human suffering. We want our University to change the world for the better, not thrive in its ashes. Sincerely, The Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition.