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‘Cut all ties’: Graduation ceremony disrupted by arms protestor

Lara Sonnenschein reports on the disruption of today's graduation ceremony.

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A student has disrupted their graduation ceremony today by dropping a banner highlighting the University of Sydney’s connections to weapons manufacturing companies.

“I’m ashamed to be graduating from a university who are trying to profit off drone warfare and nuclear weapons”, said Science graduate and University medal recipient, Jodie Pall.

Pall unfurled a banner on stage in the Great Hall which read “USyd: Cut your ties with weapons dealers #DisarmUnis.”

The University currently invests over $5 million in weapons dealers worldwide, with $3.3 million of that in Honeywell, the manufacturer of the MQ-9 Reaper drone engine—the deadliest drone in operation.

Pall added, “it’s appalling that an institution which prides itself on moral leadership could partner up with those currently profiting from armed conflict and war.”

Viewers of the ceremony’s live stream report that the camera angles were changed as Pall made her speech, minimising coverage of Pall’s sign and her speech. In the hall, though, there was little the University could do as the audience issued a loud applause.

Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of USyd is the chairwoman of Thales Australia.

USyd has recently signed a 5-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Thales in order to engage in weapons research, raising concerns about a conflict of interest.

This is the second time in recent history that a graduation ceremony has been chosen to draw attention to a particular cause, with 2016 SRC Environment Officer and former SUPRA co-President, Lily Matchett taking similar action over the University’s investment in fossil fuels two years ago.

This is the first protest planned by #DisarmUnis, an emerging campaign to sever the relationships between universities and weapons companies. Information about the University of Sydney’s financial ties to arms manufacturers was released after a student-led Freedom of Information investigation in March, sparking outrage from students.

A #DisarmUnis spokesperson told Honi, “We’re gearing up to escalate this issue in the coming months.”

The Australian government is engaging in Australia’s biggest defence build up since World War Two.