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Referendum: Should URNU be excluded from USSU events and publicity?

Why should you vote YES?

By Koos Couvee

URNU’s (University Royal Naval Unit) aim is “to educate a wide spectrum of high calibre undergraduates who show potential as society’s future leaders and opinion formers in order to better inform them of the need for and role of the Royal Navy, and to develop awareness of career opportunities in the service.”

Why should we oppose URNU’s presence in our students’ union?
•    The URNU is part of the Royal Navy. The British military is not a humanitarian force; it forms the armed wing of British imperialism. In the 19th and 20th century, its role was to ensure colonial expansion; nowadays its role is to maintain Britain’s geopolitical and economic power across the globe (even in the name of ‘peacekeeping’).
•    The URNU is an external organisation and is given special treatment by being allowed onto our Freshers’ Fair.
•    The URNU has no democratic structures. There may be debate within the organisation but never can ordinary members set policy, they are simply doing what they are told. The dispute between those opposed to URNU’s presence and URNU is therefore not a genuine political one, since URNU members cannot change their organisation’s policy.
•    The URNU might not be an official recruitment organ, but nationally on average 12 % of URNU members become Royal Navy officers after graduation, and URNU’s aim clearly professes partial recruitment intentions.
•    The chief function of URNU is an ideological one. Is it necessary that students are educated in “the need and role of the Royal Navy”? URNU presents war as a necessary evil with humanitarian ends, not as something that is deeply bound-up with imperialism, the domination and colonisation of land and people.

We are not preventing anyone from joining the URNU. We do however hold the view that this organisation has no place in our students’ union, for reasons mentioned above. If we believe that what URNU stands for is wrong, as history shows again and again, we should not just think about the individuals involved, but about the nature of the institution we are dealing with.

Shouldn’t we focus our intentions on the government, rather than URNU? We should do as well. This motion is only part of a broad anti-war strategy. In fact, the symbolic act of excluding URNU is one way to use our collective power as a democratic institution and force the government to rethink their military ventures.

Why should you vote NO?

By Mark Downing

Some URNU myth-busting from an URNU member…
•    Sussex URNU members are not in the Royal Navy. We aren’t committed to joining the Navy when we graduate, we can leave at any time, and we are non-violent. The URNU is an educational organisation, similar to sea cadets. We receive no weapons training, learning mainly navigation and leadership skills. We also fundraise, and collected over £1500 for the RNLI last year.
•    While some URNU members do want to join military organisations – currently about 9 out of 43 are planning to do so – all of these people had planned to join up before they joined the URNU. They were not ‘brainwashed.’
•    Although we get paid for going to the URNU, the money is minimal, and we only receive it if we attend URNU events. It has been argued that this is a waste of taxpayers’ money – money which would be better spent elsewhere. However, if that money weren’t spent on the URNU, it would NOT be redistributed to hospitals and schools. It is MOD money, which would remain within the MOD, most probably being used to buy more weapons. Isn’t it better that the money be used for educational, non-violent projects, that aim to open up the Navy to public eyes?
•    Sussex URNU is not in the student union and receives no funding from it. In fact, the unit pays to rent Sussex buildings, thus contributing to the university’s funds.
•    Removing Sussex URNU from the campus would NOT affect any military campaigns in which the Royal Navy is involved. Again, we are NOT in the Royal Navy. Although we are an easy target for protests, we are the wrong target. Anti-war protestors would be better directing their efforts at groups such as the Labour Party.
•    Sussex URNU doesn’t discriminate against anyone on any grounds, whether racial, sexual, or religious. We are not elitist or prejudiced. We have black and Asian students, gay students, Muslim students and over half of our members are female. Everyone is treated equally.
•    The only time any URNU member has felt threatened has been during so-called ‘non-violent’ demonstrations – most of which have been highly aggressive and intimidating, damaging URNU property.
•    We are all students, with rights and freedoms. It is not for ‘anti-war’ protestors to decide how or what other students should be thinking or doing.

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