Goldsmiths UCU and Student Union statement on PREVENT
As members of staff and students at Goldsmiths, we are proud of our commitment to, and record of, challenging any expression of prejudice or discrimination directed against any group or individual – whether in the shape of racism, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism or in discriminatory attitudes to people on the basis of their sexuality, gender or disability. When any member of the Goldsmiths community is faced with the risk of harm, there are established procedures of prompt referral that every member of staff should be aware of and should be able to act on accordingly.
In addition, it is essential that in order to explore a full range of views and opinions and, where necessary, to challenge them, we actively promote a climate of free discussion and debate. There should be no fear that this will incur suspicion or limit free expression within the boundaries of our equality and diversity policy and disciplinary codes on harassment and abuse.
It is essential that legitimate political opinions expressed by staff or students are not in any way regarded as ‘extreme’ or as promoting ‘extremism’. In the context of the Government’s new ‘Prevent’ legislation as applied to Higher Education – Section 31 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 – we believe that it it is perfectly legitimate, for example, to criticise government foreign policy; to oppose the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan; to express support for Palestinian rights or to express either support for or opposition to the Israeli government. Neither is it extreme or illegitimate to hold that the rise of terrorism or hostility to western governments is a direct result of recent UK foreign policy. One may agree or disagree with such views, however they form part of legitimate discussion and debate; they are widespread in the political and academic sphere and in society at large. They are neither ‘extreme’, nor should they be presented as ‘excusing’ or providing cover for ‘extremism’ or acts of violence or terror.
Yet the new legislation requires Higher Education staff to monitor students who are suspected of engaging in ‘active opposition to fundamental British values’ and to police ‘extremist’ speakers and students on campus. We believe that the Prevent Agenda will force our staff to spy on students, that it is fundamentally discriminatory towards Muslims, and that it legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia. We also believe that the monitoring of Muslim students will destroy the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment and encourage discrimination against BME and Muslim staff and students. We therefore declare our opposition to the Prevent agenda and pledge to work towards its repeal.
Goldsmiths UCU and Goldsmiths Students Union resolve to present the above to Goldsmiths SMT as an agreed set of principles and to seek clarification from SMT about how it intends to implement Prevent without discriminating against Muslim students, without undermining academic freedom and without potentially criminalising legitimate campus activism.
Join the discussion and get involved in activity against PREVENT:
-GUCU and Goldsmiths SU will be organising a briefing event on Prevent in October on campus.
-The NUS and UCU are also hosting a #StudentsNotSuspects tour including an event in London on Weds 14th October – full details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1487881704845683/