The Guardian July 16, 2003


Flinders university has victory over military sponsorship

The Students' Association of Flinders University in Adelaide has had an 
important victory in its campaign against a University Administration 
decision to approve Saab Systems sponsorship of a History department centre 
of the University.

James Frazer, the Education Research Officer of the Flinders University 
Students' Association writes that Saab Systems is an Adelaide based company 
that specialises in military technology. Saab hails its fire control system 
as the "silent achiever" behind naval gunfire support provided by HMAS 
ANZAC during the recent war of aggression against Iraq.

The Students' Association has policies against the influence of militarism 
on campus. We do not accept the idea that Flinders University should 
receive funding ('blind' or 'tied') from the arms industry. We do not want 
the university to play a role in perpetuating (or promoting) weapons 
proliferation says James Frazer.

The History centre was operating under the name of the 'Saab Centre for 
Scandinavian Studies'. Through the Saab advertising on the website the 
university appeared to be endorsing to our members a company whose 
activities we have a policy against.

The Students' Association campaign opposed the establishment of the centre 
until our concerns surrounding it were addressed. We also argued that it 
was symptomatic of a wider policy shortcoming of the university in the area 
of corporate partnerships.

We argued for the establishment of a more formal, inclusive framework for 
discussion of corporate partnerships.

The campaign seemed to come to a head [when the] University Administration 
refused all of our demands. Controversial direct action was taken by some 
radical students on campus, tense meetings with the Vice-Chancellor ensued, 
occupation threats hung in the air, and we received a letter from Saab 
threatening to sue the University unless we ceased criticism of their 
company.

At the 11th hour University Administration gave in. Administration removed 
all Saab advertising from the Centre website. They also [said] that the 
sponsorship from Saab would not be renewed and [that] broader community 
based funding would be explored. We then took our proposal for a formal 
framework for debate over corporate relationships to Academic Senate. This 
was met with unexpected support, even from the VC.

The university has now formally established an Academic Senate working 
party to explore models of debate, regulation and policy for corporate 
relationships.

This win may not be a revolutionary change but we do believe that it is an 
important step forward for building debate and action around the question 
of who funds our education and why.

This working party may well be the first of its kind in the university 
sector.

Given the heavy emphasis that the Nelson Reforms [Nelson is Minister for 
Education in the Howard Government] place on increasing the number of Uni-
Industry partnerships, we urge all other student organisations to campaign 
for similar bodies on their campuses, writes Jim Frazer.

For more information or to find out the background of the saga including 
the efforts of Saab to brow-beat the University Administration and the 
Student's Assoc go to http://www.flinders.edu.au/StuAssoc

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