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UVic students overturn military recruitment ban
Vote overwhelmingly against ouster of Forces from January career fair
Cindy E. Harnett, Times Colonist, 26 Oct 07
University of Victoria students voted overwhelmingly in favour yesterday of allowing military recruiters at a career fair in their Student Union Building, reversing an earlier student society decision to ban them.
Cheers, applause and calls for beers rang out when the standing-room only crowd of about 350 voted in favour of what the majority said was an issue of freedom of speech.
"This is a big victory for democracy," UVic student Jon Fox said. "I'm just really glad everyone came out, no matter what side they were for. We made a democratic decision today that has upheld the rights of everyone, not just a select few."
Student George Robinson worked for more than a month, urging students to vote against the ban.
"I'm thrilled the motion to ban our Armed Forces was defeated," Robinson said. "We worked hard to get a majority of the moderate student on campus out today."
Opposing sides both used passionate arguments about democratic rights and the freedom of speech to explain their views.
The pro-ban side said prohibiting the military from recruiting on campus is a way of making a statement against Canada's combat role in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
"For me, exercising my democratic right and freedom of speech is about taking actions to actually stop things from happening," student Jennifer King said.
"I see this ban as a concrete thing I can do to prevent the spread ... of our military action and [students] being drawn into something they may not know the totality of," King said.
Meanwhile, the anti-ban side argued that including the military allows everyone the right to have a voice, access and choice.
UVic student Daniel Lonsdale, in his naval cadet uniform, said his intelligence was insulted by the Sept. 10 decision to ban the Canadian military from a career fair in the Student Union Building in January.
The September vote was a 6-6 deadlock, broken by chairwoman Tracy Ho who favoured the ban.
"I think it's embarrassing they think we can't make up our own minds. That's what university is all about," Lonsdale said.
The debate yesterday was confused by myriad issues -- one student was dressed in mix-and-match Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo Bay prison garb, an apparent denunciation of U.S. military treatment of detainees.
There was an overwhelming number of interruptions for points of order, points of privilege and points of information during the annual general meeting. At one point, someone decided there was no point at all in continuing and called for the debate to end and the vote to be called.
The chairwoman was challenged, the rules were challenged, and during an intermission students broke out their Robert's Rules of Order meeting handbooks.
Serina Zapf, a political science student, came to the meeting to vote against the ban and for "a dialogue of voices." But she ended up not voting at all after becoming disheartened.
"I actually didn't vote one way or another," Zapf said. "I felt the side voting against the ban was being disrespectful of other people's right to speech. I think people are missing the real issue here."
Tom Page, a visiting student from Britain, was also shaking his head.
"It's ironic people that are supposedly voting in favour of freedom of speech are trying to shut down the other side of the debate," Page said. "That's not freedom of speech at all."