A row has erupted after the University of London Union banned senior officers from representing fellow students at a major Remembrance Sunday ceremony.
Student leaders sparked controversy today after banning members from attending a Remembrance Sunday service in an official capacity.
The University of London Union, which represents students across the capital, was branded disrespectful following a decision to effectively bar senior officers from an annual ceremony.
Members of the union’s ruling senate voted in favour of a motion prohibiting officials and staff from the service if they “claim to be representing ULU as an organisation”.
Elected representatives will be able to attend the University of London ceremony in a personal capacity but would not be allowed to speak on behalf of fellow students.
The move comes just 12 months after a similar snub by a senior ULU member.
In 2012, Daniel Cooper, the vice-president, declined an invitation to lay a Remembrance Sunday wreath due to his “socialist principles”.
He said at the time that the conflict was a “colonial scramble for possessions, markets and resources amongst the major nations” and “legalised mass slaughter”.
His response drew criticism from hundreds of students and sparked a “Dan Cooper Must Resign” Facebook page.
The ULU is the biggest organisation of its kind in Europe – representing 120,000 students from the various colleges that combine to form the University of London.
Michael Chessum, president of ULU, confirmed that he would not be at this year’s event.
The ULU motion passed by the senate said that “while of course many of those who participate have different views, official ‘Remembrance’ ceremonies and the campaign around them glorify and justify Britain’s role in world politics and British militarism, as well as ignoring the treatment of British soldiers by the military command”.
It also said that the ULU has a “proud tradition of opposing war and militarism, a tradition we should continue now”.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Chessum said: “ULU has democratically established a policy on its engagement with official Remembrance which leaves room for officers and students to act freely.
“Either attending or not attending official ceremonies is a political act.
“Personally, I will commemorate the dead killed in war by fighting for peace and challenging the policies of governments, not by standing next to war criminals like Tony Blair on plinths, pretending that these acts are ‘triumphant’.”
But the move to bar fellow officers in an official capacity provoked a backlash among other students.
Louisa Townson, president of the Conservative Society at University College London, criticised the “outright delusional arrogance of this senate clique that wishes to impose this view on 120,000 students and say no one may represent ULU at the service”.
“I find it amazing that when convenient they shout from the rooftops about the sheer number they represent, but on a topic like this expediently silence them,” she said. “Students overwhelmingly want their union to pay respect, not just to fallen students in years gone by, but to give thanks to those that lost their lives to protect the rights and liberties we hold dear today.”
Remembrance Sunday – held this year on November 10 – traditionally marks the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War. It is held to commemorate the contribution of servicemen and women in the two World Wars as well as other conflicts.
Jay Stoll, general secretary of the London School of Economics Students’ Union, said in a letter to his university’s student newspaper that he owed “everything to those who made the ultimate sacrifice”.
“Whilst clearly people are free to not attend such a service, putting a blanket ban on representatives attending in an official capacity is utterly absurd,” he said.
See on www.telegraph.co.uk