CUSU votes to ban all societies and external organisations from bringing firearms to Freshers’ Fair

The amended motion will now be re-voted on at the next council meeting in two weeks


Cambridge University Students’ Union voted this week on whether to ban all societies and external organisations from bringing firearms to the CUSU Freshers’ Fair or other CUSU-run or supported events, with the motion passing by 75 per cent.

The motion was proposed by the CUSU Welfare and Rights Officer, and seconded by the Access and Funding Officer.

In the meeting, the motion proved both contentious and confusing, with one student commenting that “the whole thing seems like a giant mess now” and another asking “for clarity on what the motion is for”.

The CUSU Welfare and Rights Officer justified the motion, adding she wishes to remove visible weapons from the fair because some people find them “triggering” and because it “causes a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare at Freshers’ Fair”.

In the meeting, which took place on Monday evening (3rd February), 55 per cent of voters also passed an amendment submitted by Fitzwilliam College JCR President to “remove CUSU resolves 2 and 3”. He noted: “The intention of this is to ensure the University Air Squadron, University Royal Naval Unit and the Cambridge University Officer’s Training Corps are still welcome at the CUSU Freshers Fair.”

This amendment removed the following second and third notes from the “CUSU Resolves” section, meaning the following actions will not be taken:

“2) Not to allow external military organisations which are not student societies registered in the CUSU Societies Directory to attend the CUSU Freshers’ Fair or other CUSU-run or supported events, or to be advertised on CUSU’s social media channels;

“3) To ensure that non-CUSU members from external organisations do not attend CUSU Freshers’ Fair by using a society as a front.”

The amended motion will have to be re-voted on at a second council meeting, and will need to have been passed at the second meeting also in order to become CUSU policy.

If there are no objections to the motions raised at the next meeting on the 17th February, the motions will pass automatically. However, this looks set to be unlikely.

In the ‘CUSU Believes’ section of the proposed motion, it says “the presence of firearms and military personnel at Freshers’ Fair is alarming and off-putting for some students, and has the potential to detrimentally affect students’ mental welfare”.

The ‘CUSU Believes’ section also states:

“5: That this does not ban individuals from engaging in, for example, the Officer Training Corps, Royal Navy Units or the Territorial Army whilst at University;

“6: That the presence of firearms and military personnel at CUSU Freshers’ Fair shows implicit approval of their use, despite the links between military and firearms and violence on an international scale as outlined in the Council’s 2018 Policy on demilitarisation referenced above;”.

The CUSU believes this section of the motion is intended to explain the motivation of the proposer and seconder for bringing the issue to the Council. CUSU recommend this section is for opinions and political beliefs.

Individuals at the meeting voiced their concerns about the original wording of the ‘CUSU Notes’ and ‘CUSU Believes’ sections, as well as the motion itself pre-amendment.

The motion said the presence of firearms and military personnel at the fair shows “implicit approval of their use, despite the links between military and firearms and violence on an international scale”.

In the meeting, a committee member from Cambridge University Rifle Association, said: “The army provide no personnel at the Freshers’ Fair, neither do the RAF”. She pointed out the firearms are chained to the desk and inactive at the fair, and the rifle “is no different from any other piece of sporting equipment”. She agreed, however, that sensitive content should be removed during “access times”.

The access times referred to are ‘Access Hours’, where capacity is reduced, the music is turned off and they put sensitive objects away.

The student also added that she found it “disgraceful” none of the societies affected were directly contacted before the council meeting.

In a floor speech, a fourth year St. John’s Engineering student, who is also a platoon commander with CUOTC (Cambridge University Officers Training Corps) – spoke out against the original wording of the motion. He pointed out “Motion 5C seeks to ban the Officer Training Corps and the University Air and Naval Squadrons from the Freshers’ Fair and, in doing so, seeks to influence and restrict the way in which students enjoy their spare time”.

While the CUOTC member emphasised he does “not object to the ban on military firearms, which is entirely sensible”, he said “it would almost seem that the proposal on firearms is being used to strong-arm through an agenda which I believe is based on mal-informed views”.

CUOTC is CUSU affiliated, as is the Cambridge University Air Squadron and Cambridge University Royal Naval Unit.

Participation is paid, with CUOTC stating “you will be paid for your time, starting at £40 a day”.

The societies, although being named as Cambridge University, are for students from universities across the region. For example, CUOTC is open to students from Cambridge, Anglia Ruskin and Hertfordshire.

CUSU Council have previously passed motions supporting demilitarisation, with the following being voted through in Michaelmas 2018: “Motion to support student campaigns and movements working towards the demilitarisation of the University”, which resolved “to uphold the principles of demilitarisation wherever possible and appropriate/relevant.”

The CUSU Welfare and Rights Officer has been approached for comment.

Cover photo: CUOTC