Wednesday 02-12-2015 - 12:04
NUS Black Students Campaign have created a handbook on countering the PREVENT agenda on your campuses.
To download the Preventing PREVENT handbook digitally.
To order copies of the Preventing PREVENT handbook please fill out the form.
The Counter-terrorism and Security Act was voted into law in February of this year, and the so-named ‘Prevent duty’ came in to effect for education institutions in September, imposing a statutory requirement on our colleges and universities to implement the ‘PREVENT’ counter-extremism initiative.
In the few short months since the Prevent duty has been in effect our greatest fears seem to be have been confirmed, and we have received a steady feed of stories, cases and anecdotes of individuals referred to PREVENT on the weakest of grounds.
From the postgraduate student at Staffordshire University being interrogated by university security on his views on homosexuality and ISIS for reading a textbook on terrorism – for his course: Terrorism, Crime and Global Security – to the schoolboy referred and questioned for using the term ‘L’ecoterrorisme’ (Eco-terrorism) during a French class discussion on eco-activism, to CCTV cameras actually being placed in prayer rooms. Not to mention all the deeply unsettling cases of primary school children handed tests designed to draw out their views on violence and extremism, and the fact that within the first 5 months of 2015 alone the number of referrals to PREVENT (or the ‘Channel’ stream of PREVENT) had exceeded the entire figure for 2014, and any year since its introduction, with school-age children now forming half of the referrals.
These cases aren’t the first nor the only cases of PREVENT clearly overstepping its mark, nor even the most sordid examples – of which far too many can be picked up from the last 9 years of the strategy being enacted. In the lead-up to the Act passing and over the course of the ensuing months a broad range of groups including NUS have been campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of the Act and the Prevent duty, and working with students, educators and communities to work to tackle the racist project that is PREVENT.
To this end the Black Students’ Campaign co-hosted the very successful ‘Students not Suspects’ tour which toured campuses across the UK, as well as holding a number of workshops and training sessions throughout NUS training events. This was all crucial in raising awareness but also bringing to light concerns that many sabbatical officers have had in understanding the new laws, their obligations under the Prevent duty, and how to articulate opposition against PREVENT and effectively resist these repressive measures.
Based on the discussions had and the feedback received, the Black Students’ Campaign has produced the Preventing PREVENT handbook, as a resource for students in deconstructing PREVENT. From its introduction in 2006, through to the many iterations is has taken over the course of the last 9 years, the handbook also provides a better understanding of the capacity that we as students, student officers and student unions have in challenging and countering PREVENT and the Prevent duty on our campuses.
Under the Prevent duty, the relationship between lecturers and students will be changed from one of partners in learning to that of suspects and informants. Universities and Colleges which should be spaces of critical thinking, but we are steadily finding the window of ‘acceptable’ topics close in around them in the name of ‘security’ and ‘counter-extremism’. Essentially, it undermines everything we have been taught to believe about the education system, down to its very foundations.
PREVENT is, has, and always will be an ideologically driven project, it’s the only way to explain the government’s hardheaded insistence on pushing ahead with a strategy which has accumulated many enemies, criticism and condemnation from all quarters. When Jo Johnson ‘asks’ NUS to drop opposition to PREVENT, we know full well that’s not a polite request, nor that we’re coming to the table as equal partners: and we know that now is not the time to be bowing to government pressure.
The borders of PREVENT do not start nor end at the campus, and students are by no means the only victim – the shadow of PREVENT has long-hung over communities, especially Black and Muslim ones who have suffered the sharpest manifestations of the agenda – and it will take a multi-pronged strategy to defeat the agenda.
However, our movement is a good place to start: Universities and Colleges may not be the ‘hotbeds of extremism’ that the government tries to claim they are, but they certainly are hotbeds of progressive thought and action that changes our world for the better, and it is our job to fight to maintain that climate and culture.
I’m grateful to see that a shift in consciousness throughout the student movement, with more of us waking up to the dangers of PREVENT and the need to combat it, as has been seen by the wave of Unions pledging non-compliance and opposition to the Counter-terrorism and Security Act and PREVENT, from Birmingham to Bradford, Exeter to Edinburgh and many in between.
We will push ahead on the national campaign against PREVENT alongside external groups and organisations but this will ultimately only develop from campaigns at the local level – from innovative examples of agitation and opposition by students, teachers and communities alike, fighting back against the government looking to force PREVENT into every aspect of our lives and society. The national #StudentNotSuspects day of action against PREVENT on the Monday the 7th of December will be on of the best times to show the government and our institutions that we will not be silenced or complicit with this agenda.
As they try to normalise PREVENT, we will normalise dissent.
We hope the handbook will provide a useful resource and will help support many in starting up and carrying campaigns.
The scope of the Prevent duty under the new laws, and depths to which institutions will go in appeasing the government, are yet to be fully seen, and there’s still much that we can learn from your individual campaigns, situations and successes.
So please do stay in contact, and for any advice that you need, or to pass on details about how your institution in implementing PREVENT please feel email:
Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students’ Officer at Malia.Bouattia@nus.org.uk
Shelly Asquith, NUS VP Welfare at Shelly.Asquith@nus.org.uk
Samayya Afzal, NUS Society & Citizenship Zone NEC Rep at Samayya.Afzal@nus.org.uk
For the Facebook event for the Day of action against PREVENT
For the Preventing PREVENT handbook
To order physical copies of the handbook
For a model motion against PREVENT to pass through your Student Union
To join the Preventing PREVENT on campuses Facebook group
For our stance on principled opposition to PREVENT
For the UCU’s guidance on the Prevent Duty to its members
For the external BWB guidance on the Prevent duty