What’s the issue and why does it matter
In 2015 it was made a legal requirement for universities, colleges and other ‘specified authorities’ to ‘prevent people being drawn into terrorism’ by implementing Prevent, the government’s failing and deeply flawed counter terrorism strategy, by monitoring and reporting those deemed at risk of radicalisation.
Our campuses, which should be spaces to critique, challenge the status quo and explore an alternative vision for society find themselves cloaked by an air of censorship and suspicion. Communities who are already at the sharpest end of state repression are further targeted through Prevent; Muslim, Black and international students disproportionately find their ideas and beliefs reported to the police yet, as surveillance also extends to lecturers and environmental and political activists, civil liberties are curtailed for us all.
Prevent operates on a discredited “conveyor belt” theory of radicalisation where all Muslims are at risk of being recruited into “violent extremism” when exposed to specific ideological strands within Islam, rather than considering violence as a method that a minority of people in any group may adopt.
It is so embedded in education, healthcare and public sectors that Prevent provides a broad surveillance mechanism to keep Muslims in Britain under watch, intelligence-gathering and spying on innocent people. Whilst these communities face pressure to implement Prevent to see off accusations of enabling terrorist activity, treating Muslims as possible criminals fuels Islamophobia, aligns with the far right agenda and furthers the government’s racist campaign of fear and demonisation.
What’s NUS doing about it
NUS opposes Prevent and has created “Preventing Prevent” resources to help students campaign locally within their institutions including a model motion to pass through your student union.
NUS has co-hosted a national “Students not Suspects” tour and can come to your campus to deliver a workshop on Prevent.
We are collecting your stories. If you have experiences of Prevent we need to hear them so it can inform our work on a national level and help us lobby government to repeal this law.
On a national level we are engaging with policy makers to highlight the damaging impact of Prevent and ultimately seek to repeal this law, giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee and running speaker events at Party Conferences.
What you can do about it
Campaign on your campuses;
Host speaker events and workshops on the dangers of Prevent, pass policy through your SU to oppose or even boycott it (most SU’s are under no legal obligation to engage with Prevent), campaign alongside teaching staff and encourage them to pledge not to report students through the programme. UCU also has a policy against Prevent so your local rep is a good starting point.
Lobby your institutions;
Whilst they ultimately cannot boycott Prevent, you could push them to be more transparent in how it is being implemented through demanding access to the policies operating at your institution or union and training materials used for staff and officers. You can then disrupt and intervene in these activities with the long term aim of having your institution publicly oppose Prevent through a statement from the Vice Chancellor.
Where to get extra info and resources?
Visit nusconnect.org for Students not Suspects and Preventing Prevent resources, including campaigning material you can order. The Preventing Prevent handbook is packed with legal and policy information and most importantly practical advice on organising and lobbying locally. If you would like to speak with someone about Prevent contact Shelly.Asquith@nus.org.uk or Aadam.Muuse@nus.org.uk