The Prevent duty, part of the new Counter Terrorism and Security Act, came into force for publicly funded higher and further education bodies on September 19th 2015. Organisations are now expected to monitor and report on students that are perceived to be at risk of ‘violence or non-violent extremism.’ There is a fear that this could lead to a culture of suspicion and surveillance on campuses, and conflict with institution’s duties to uphold freedom of speech and a safe space for students to discuss ideas.
In particular, with the current focus in society around Islamic extremism and the resulting Islamophobia, Black and Muslim students are disproportionately being targeted as part of a reactionary, racist agenda. The Prevent guidance suggests that potential indicators of radicalisation could be students with ‘relevant mental health issues’, those with a ‘need for identity, meaning, or belonging’, or those with a desire for ‘political or moral change’ – this means that anyone who may be going through a tough time personally, or has a political opinion, could potentially be targeted.
In line with policy passed by Union Council at the meeting on 17th November 2015, the Students’ Union executive team oppose Prevent and believe in freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and the right for students to organise politically without fear.
We intend to take action in a number of ways, including circulating our beliefs to all members of the University’s Prevent Steering Group, ensuring that student representatives will be involved in reviewing the University’s action plan, and reporting back from Prevent meetings to ensure that those involved remain as accountable and transparent as possible.
For more information, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.