For just over two years now I have been campaigning together with other students at University College London (UCL) to get our university to ditch its shares in arms company Cobham and adopt an ethical investment policy.
And now…just before Christmas…victory has finally come. UCL has announced its ethical investment policy, which will come into force on 1 January 2009. It feels great ! Over the past two years many of us put a lot of effort into the campaign to Disarm UCL. It was a great campaign: I have made many wonderful friends, our photo stunts in UCLs main quad have become legendary and I feel I learned more from this campaign (media work, communication skills, lobbying and the ins and outs of ethical investment) than throughout my entire postgraduate degree at UCL.
Of course the were the bad times, too: The times we got frustrated with each other, the times the Provost accused our campaign of not being based on the truth, the times right-wing students wrote nasty things about us on facebook and the times we thought the campaign was about to loose its momentum and just dissolve into thin air.
Looking back it’s all been worth it of course. I really hope other students at other universities will take courage from our campaign: You can make a real difference campaigning against the arms trade at your university. In my opinion you need to make sure you do two things: Think strategically and don’t give up. If you do this I’m convinced you’ll get there in the end. Don’t expect an easy ride but there’s also a lot of fun to be had along the way.
Make no mistake of course: I’m in a state of euphoria but I’m aware that our job at Disarm UCL is not quite done yet. We need to monitor the situation closely and make sure UCL does indeed sell its arms shares now. Most people I have spoken to are still very distrustful about the ethical investment policy. I can understand this. UCL has not been exactly open about the process of adopting the policy and students have only been consulted when we pushed our opinions forward during the rare occasions we managed to speak to someone in charge.
I still think that overall the policy, despite its flaws, is a major victory for UCL students and alumni. We now have an ethical framework to work with and can campaign to improve it. I guess as a campaigner you’re never really done. Once you’ve had your major victory you need to make sure it’s not just on a paper. But l’ll look on the bright side: now we’ll have more things to bragg about in the pub after the campaign meetings 🙂