A chaotic first Union Council of the year took place on Thursday 19 October, with the biggest controversy surrounding a motion to ban the Armed Forces society. This encompasses the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps (CUOTC), Cambridge University Air Squadron (CUAS) and Cambridge University Royal Naval Unit, from recruiting at SocMart and other Union-organised events.
The motion, which was not passed, was proposed by Liam McCafferty, one of the non-portfolio officers of the Union of UEA Students. It outlined a number of reasons to prevent the societies from recruiting, including the belief that the Union’s alignment to the Stop the War campaign should also mean it doesn’t support military conscription at its events for ethical and moral reasons.
Furthermore, the motion accused the societies in question of using “economic conscription” to recruit on campus, stating that the society is “deliberately exploiting the fears many students have of increasing fees and low levels of graduate employment, and is both misleading and unethical.” Whilst the army does pay for the higher education of some students wishing to join after graduation, the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps estimates that one in 10 of their members actually join the army after graduating. Whilst trips are supported by military funding, the OTC offers no financial aid for university courses.
Many members of the societies involved were frustrated by the lack of transparency regarding the publication of the motion, with most only finding out through word of mouth. Tensions were raised further in the meeting by the suggestion by Liam Mccafferty that the motion be withdrawn due to the late running of the meeting. This happened at 10.30pm, when many society members had sat through three and a half hours of attempting to put forward their case.
Thanks to the intervention of Community and Student Rights Officer, Tash Ross, the motion was forced to continue, giving the societies a chance to defend themselves. Though it was rejected by the Council overall, the motion was in fact amended to state that the Armed Forces society should only recruit at the Careers Fair rather than the Societies Fair. This has left some members of the society concerned that the original motion will be revived at the next meeting.