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Politics

University Agrees to Meeting with Student Activists About Lockheed Martin

13 July 2018

Student activists have successfully secured a meeting with University executive to contest the University’s relationship with weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, after blockading the entrance to Raymond Priestley building for over 14 hours.

From 7:30am on Wednesday, 11 July, students from the campus-based activist group Lockout Lockheed chained themselves to concrete-filled barrels to prevent staff, including Chancellery, the top tier leadership of the University, from entering their offices in Raymond Priestley. University staff attempted to relocate to another building on Barry Street, but the students also blockaded the entrances to that building.

The action is the latest in a years-long campaign by Lockout Lockheed in response to the research partnership agreement reached between the University and Lockheed Martin in 2016, in which Lockheed Martin would invest $13 million into the opening of a new science and technology research facility. Concerns were raised over Lockheed Martin’s track record of selling weapons and military assets to repressive governments accused of war crimes.

The student activists called for the University to cancel this agreement. Andie Moore, a spokesperson for Lockout Lockheed, said, “We don’t believe that weapons manufacturers should have any place in the University. To think that we are involved with corporations that actively benefit from the killing of civilians is despicable.”

Speaking about the blockade, Moore said, “We won’t allow the head of this administration to do any of its other tasks because ultimately, when you’re doing filthy dirty work with corporations who wage war you shouldn’t be able to do your other basic work.”

Additionally, the students called for the University to reveal the terms of its agreement with Lockheed Martin, including whether the research produced from the partnership would contribute to weapons manufacturing.

The lock-on is one part of a broader protest against “an economic system of crisis”. Student activists from the Australian Students Environmental Network also simultaneously blockaded energy and mining company BHP and the Australian Border Force office, protesting the organisations’ role in the destruction of climate and Australia’s refugee policy, respectively.

At around 9:30pm that day, the activists ended their lock-on after securing a meeting with the University’s provost and acting vice-chancellor, Mark Considine, and the pro vice-chancellor (research), Mark Hargreaves.

Will Ross, the other spokesperson for Lockout Lockheed, characterised the lock-on as a “tentative success”. While he acknowledges that the campaign’s two official demands have not been met, he hopes that the meeting will allow students to clarify the nature of the University’s partnership agreement with Lockheed Martin.

“The reason we have these two demands is because it’s important to us not only that we don’t have this contract with the weapons manufacturer but that students know what’s going on with the University and with [students’] money.”

Staff have had mixed reactions to the action; while some have been disgruntled, others have seen its value. One University of Melbourne employee, who previously knew little about the issue, expressed support for Lockout Lockheed’s goals after witnessing the lock-on.

He said, “At the end of the day, these sorts of decisions are affecting the whole community. And they’re not being told to the biggest stakeholders, which are students. I think that’s a big problem.”

He believed that the disturbance staff members may feel pales in comparison to the impact Lockheed Martin’s weapons have on people’s lives.

“Disturbance is important to make sure that people are notified and that they are talking about it. You’re talking about people’s lives, and that’s bigger than anything else. The protest is the start of something to save people’s lives.”

A statement released by the University after the demonstration said, “All University of Melbourne collaborations with external partners are extensively reviewed and subject to a rigorous and ongoing assessment of how they advance knowledge and bring benefits for researchers, students and the wider community.”

According to Ross, Lockout Lockheed’s campaign will continue to gain momentum going forward.

“This is a huge turning point of us. We’ve got so many more people interested than we ever had before. We’ve got our visibility out there. The next step is getting the word out there and getting even more people aware.

“If our demands aren’t met and we don’t get to hear about this contract, there will be more. They will be hearing from us again.”


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