The following motion was agreed by the all-members general meeting on 14 October. (The minutes of that meeting are subject to approval of the all-members general meeting on 25 November.)
University of Leeds UCU local association notes the new “Prevent Duty” being imposed on Higher and Further Education providers. The Local Association commends the response of the national UCU on this matter. The branch observes that this duty erodes staff and students’ academic freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of debate.
The branch notes further that the definition of extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values” is a direct attack on ethnic minorities. It undermines the free exchange of ideas and undermines democratic social inclusion. The branch believes that the effect of this definition will be to institutionalise both racism and Islamophobia.
University of Leeds UCU local association resolves to work with UCU HQ to develop a policy of non-co-operation with the “Prevent Duty,” up to and including branch boycotts.
As a university and union 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 form of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism; attitudes to sexuality, gender or disability). Where any safeguarding or more general duty of care concern is raised that may put a student or other persons at risk of harm, there are established procedures of prompt referral which 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 views and opinions and where necessary, challenge them, we actively promote a climate of free discussion and debate. There should be no fear that this will incur suspicion, or limit on free expression within the boundaries of our equality and diversity policy and disciplinary codes on harassment or abuse. It is essential that legitimate political opinions expressed by staff or students are not in any way regarded as ‘extreme’ or legitimising ‘extremism’. In the context of ‘Prevent’, it is perfectly legitimate for example, to criticise government foreign policy; to criticise the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan; to express support for Palestinian rights or to express either support for or opposition to Israeli domestic or foreign polices. Neither is it extreme or illegitimate to hold that the rise of terrorism or hostility to western governments is a direct result of any of these. 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. Finally, the insistence on freedom of expression and free debate, within the boundaries of established policies and codes of behaviour, is paramount. Therefore sufficient time for discussion, debate and respectful exchange of views is essential in any forum in which ‘Prevent’ is discussed or presented. Everyone is entitled to their own political view or opinion but no-one should privilege one view over that of others, or present one political explanation as ‘expert’ or not subject to challenge. All presenters in ‘Prevent’ forums, whether internal or external, should be made aware of these principles and be expected to abide by them. University of Leeds UCU … Continue reading →