By Evann Clelland
Cambridge university has banned all military personnel and weapons from their freshers fair due to the potential effect they can have on students’ mental health. For a student, seeing an army recruitment stall in their lunch hall is not an unusual sight, however, the student union in Cambridge University have decided to ban these types of stall, in a defense to student’s mental health and to those who find the Army in their University ‘Alarming.’
While seeing solders carrying firearms and being around students can be quite scary, recruiters have never been very intimidating in pushing their agenda on young students, nonetheless students at Cambridge University clearly have a problem with seeing soldiers in their establishment.
Cambridge University has been branded as ‘Snowflakes’ by Piers Morgan and many other people in the UK, with the argument being that young soldiers have died in many wars so we could have the choices we have today. However, this new ban does open up a whole new question, should the military have any place in Education. In the UK, the legal age to enlist in the Army is 16, 2 years before the legal age to vote or buy a drink in a pub. In a 2019 marketing campaign for the British Army, they appeared to target so called ‘Snowflakes’ with quotes such as “Me, Me, Me Millennials your army needs you” and “Binge gamers, your army needs you.”
This motion was proposed by Stella Swain, which was passed with 55% approval from the union. Stella Swain has since received death threats and trolling messages since this motion was approved.
Glasgow University students protested last year and demanded a ban on arm companies coming to campus events as working for these companies expresses a complicity in them. at that time complicity was an important theme in their protest, with signs saying “Arms out of education.” Protesters pointed out the irony in the University’s slogan “World Changers Welcome” and one point chanted “World changers, not destroyers.”
While the military is a commendable career for people to get into, having military recruitment in the education system could attract students who do not realise the hard life a British soldier faces. While joining the army is an individual’s choice, for many the military can be seen as a last resort career choice. Students who are perhaps struggling with their chosen course could choose to abandon the course and join the army as an easy way out.
On the other hand, a student from Stirling University, Rhona Boyle has no negative reservations about Military stalls in universities, saying “…they’re good for people who want to find out more about joining the army…I don’t think they should be banned cause people might want to join after college or get a part time job with them (some you can get from home) and students should be entitled to find out more about it if they want”
“I don’t think they should hand out leaflets or actively encourage people in uni to join, as long as they are not encouraging students to leave higher education when they don’t want to. I think they are ok.”
Government data released on 15th of august 2019 revealed that 61% of recruits leave for voluntary reasons, with a survey revealing that recruits are unwilling to uproot their families to move posting. So, recruitment aimed at students could be a good way to gain more soldiers.
Many military personnel can come back from war with injuries and mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or alcoholism. James Wharton in a piece for the Huffington post described having to tell a young man about the dangers of joining the army at a young age.
“I couldn’t in good conscience offer him any better advice than to stay as far away as possible from a career in the UK armed forces, telling him he would be an idiot to sign up to an organization that will ask him to kill in the name of Queen and country, but then later leave him hung out to dry while former enemies of the state employed money-chasing shark lawyers to pursue claims against him for following those very commands. What other country in the world would do this to the people who swear an oath of allegiance to defend it?”
While there is no real harm in Army Stalls being in our universities and colleges, students interested in pursuing a career in the military should understand all potential troubles that can occur, both in the army and outside of it. However, if there is no one there to inform students, how are we supposed to learn.