On Monday 20th October the annual AISEC Careers fair commenced at Nottingham University, featuring many organisations with despicable or at least dubious ethical credentials and social-responsibility records, including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Qinetiq, E.On, BP, RBS, MoD and the army. The fair also featured some student activists and Grim Reapers who had made an appearance in order to remind fellow students of the deadly consequences of working in the arms trade or climate change industry.
AISEC claim to be ‘the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact on society.’ The organisation also claims to envision “Peace and fulfillment of humankind’s potential.” Despite this, at Nottingham, the organisations’ main endeavor appears to be to give a platform to arms dealers! For more see: http://www.aiesec.org/
Concerned about the presence of such unethical corporate entities and the glaring hypocrisy of AISEC, a group of students came together with the aim of raising awareness of the unethical nature of many of the companies at the fair and oppose the general presence of mechanisms of the capitalist death machine.
The morning began with fliering at various stalls, collecting of shiny corporate merch, and using up the representatives time. Nottingham University Security were being their usual oppressive selves and tried to prevent the students from fliering near the glossy corporate stalls. Threats of calling the police were also issued. The students also had a permanent stall next to the army (courtesy of One World Week) from which alternative information about companies, personal discussion and careers guides could be disseminated. When the army rep left his stall, a couple of students kindly stepped in to fill his role and invite students to ‘join the imperial death machine’.
In the afternoon four Grim Reapers appeared and went to pay a visit to the stalls of BAE and Rolls-Royce, much to the amusement of passers-by and bewilderment of corporate representatives. Simultaneously, a rather unambiguous banner was dropped in the main access stairwell of the building reading ‘BAE KILL’. The four reapers loitered at BAE and Rolls-Royces stalls for an hour or so handing our fliers and chatting to students and reps, before doing a mini-tour of other dubious corporate outfits in Portland Building (E.On, BP, Qinetiq). University Security reacted initially with ‘you lot have to leave or we’ll call the police’, one BAE rep intervened to assure security “it’s cool, they’re Ok”. Security later changed their line to ‘please take off your masks it’s causing intimidation’, and finally, meekly asked ‘can you please stop filming’, before eventually leaving the students to do their thing. A combination of knowledge about basic rights and the fact that they were armed with a video camera successfully protected the protesters from any silly games that security may have wished to play. Thankfully, this time, freedom of expression and the right to protest prevailed.
Some interesting discussions were had with some of the representatives. One BAE rep was heard to proclaim ‘Free Palestine’, despite working for a company that has provided parts for Israeli military equipment (notably electronics for the F-16 fighter aircraft) and also subcontracted work to Israel. The same rep also confessed feeling slightly guilty about working for BAE, despite being at the Careers fair precisely with the purpose of trying to convince others to do the same thing! A Qinetiq representative admitted that he felt the student protesters were doing a good thing, and was ultimately somewhat envious of the passion they clearly had for this issue. He also suggested that the student s should be targeting Airbus and the MoD additionally.
An eventful time was had by all, especially BAE’s reps! E.ON were the only company to actively complain about the student protests (as far as we know), the moody gits! Clearly various teddies were thrown out of various power-stations. On Tuesday, the second day of the fair, the vast majority of the REALLY immoral companies were not present.
For an awesome video of the action see: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=VfJ8geHkaRk
See Indy article for photos: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/10/411386.html