BY LEIGH HUGHES
ADELAIDE — Student anti-war activists won a campaign for corporate accountability at Flinders University on June 11. The academic senate has agreed to establish a working group to investigate ties between corporate sponsors and the university.
The formation of the working group is the first victory in a campaign by activists from the Students' Association of Flinders University (SAFU) and the Education Action Collective to challenge military contractors working on campus.
A specific concern for many students was the Centre for Scandinavian Studies getting sponsorship from the industrial giant Saab Systems, which manufactures weapons.
The students held heated meetings with the university administration about the issue. Vice-chancellor Anne Edwards then invited the company onto campus to inspect anti-Saab campaign materials, including excepts from a report that revealed military ties between Saab and the former Baathist regime in Iraq.
Saab threatened the students with legal action, arguing that the company only manufactured SCUD missile launchers for the regime, not the missiles themselves.
The activists, however, did convince the Centre for Scandinavian Studies to discontinue its involvement with Saab Systems. They now want the university to ban all funding from the arms industry.
James Frazer, SAFU education research officer, believes the working group is significant. "To our knowledge, this sets a national precedent for regulation of the corporate sector. We believe that it will provide an important and legitimate framework for debate over who funds our education and why."
Despite the vice-chancellor's claim that she would defeat any motions to ban arms-industry funding, the activists say they will keep campaigning until the war machine is off campus.
"We are not abandoning this demand, it will be raised again in the near future. We do not, and never will, support the involvement of the arms industry in universities. Next semester we will be putting out the call for the broadest, most inclusive involvement of the university community possible [in the campaign]", said Frazer.
From Green Left Weekly, June 18, 2003.
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