Open Letter

We, the signatories of this letter,

 

refuse to accept that the University of York uses the capital associated with our names, tuition fees and intellectual efforts to invest in companies that are actively involved in the arms trade. We believe that this defies the university’s explicit commitment to the ‘application of knowledge for the health, wealth and well-being of society’[1] in general, and the financial and intellectual efforts put into peace-building, development and human rights research in particular.

 

As we assert the increasing interlinked nature of today’s societies, we are convinced that any gain an institution or society might have from supporting the arms trade can only be temporary. In the long term, it will decrease not only the stability and quality of the life of those societies directly subjected to the force of arms, but also that of our own lives and communities. Therefore, we call upon the University of York to end the irony of rewarding lecturers’ lifelong efforts to teach students the values of justice, tolerance and intellectual scrutiny by paying their pensions off shares held in the arms industry.

The University of York currently holds £713,803 worth of shares in the ‘defence’ company BAE systems, while total University shareholdings in arms companies amount to £997,342[2]. BAE systems is the world’s fourth largest arms manufacturer. It is known to sell weapons to regimes with a record of extensive human rights abuses, produces central components for nuclear weapons and has been involved in numerous corruption scandals since its creation in 1999[3].

Students have been protesting against the university’s investment policy for more than three years. Despite the university’s agreement to draft an ethical investment policy in collaboration with students, however, proposed changes have yet to be implemented. Instead of encouraging student responsibility by taking their concerns and work seriously, the university has followed a contrary path and increased its shareholdings in BAE systems since 2007 by almost  £70,000. This makes York the fourth biggest university investor in the UK.

 

We urge the university to resume its collaboration with students to finalise and implement an ethical investment policy. It is our belief that universities have a unique moral responsibility as educational institutions, which overrides their pursuit of maximum profit as businesses. Furthermore, academic research has demonstrated that ethical investment funds can perform as well as, and sometimes better than, ordinary investment funds. As members of an international university that promotes research in all parts of the world, it is our strongest conviction that our pursuit of academic excellence need not and must not rely on the profits obtained through the endangerment of other members of our global community. Their losses are not our gains – they are much rather the continued evidence of our failure to use the vast resources of knowledge available to us to make more informed, ethical choices, which could contribute to a more stable and just world.


[1]                 University of York Corporate Plan 2005 – 2009, Section 1.2.1.

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