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UCU critical of government advice on extremism

Source: UCU News (University and College Union)

Guidance issued to colleges and universities on combating extremism on campus is an improvement on previous leaked drafts but won't solve all the problems and doesn't give sufficient emphasis to improving campus relations, warned leaders of the UCU today.

In a joint statement with a number of other organisations UCU said it took seriously the threat of terrorism and believed 'that all those who would advocate or carry out attacks like those in London last July, must be isolated, identified and stopped.'

Paul Mackney, UCU joint general secretary said: 'Universities and colleges must have a robust strategy for defeating racism and Islamophobia. And they could be a lot more pro-active in engaging with the communities they serve. This is essential to maintain trust and confidence between staff students and institutions.

'You just need straightforward procedures on what to do if anyone suspects violent extremism or terrorist activity.

'But radicalism must not be conflated with terrorism. Institutions must maintain a moderating environment where discussion flourishes, where people learn about different cultures and where ideas can be explored, challenged and debated.'

Sally Hunt, UCU joint general secretary said: 'Academic freedom is the key to this debate. The advice to vice chancellors can only be dealt with through collective bargaining with the trade unions who represent staff.

'In higher education and further education it is not acceptable for individuals, staff or students, to be asked to compromise their duty to teach or their wish to learn through debate and argument because of this advice.

'We expect all institutions to respect that and take these views from government forward in that way. Any other approach will fail, damaging academics' freedom, industrial relations and most importantly, freedom of speech.'

Contact: Press officer, Trevor Phillips Tel: 020 7520 1032 or 07773 796 882 (mob)

Joint Statement

For Immediate Release, Friday 17 November 2006

NUS, UCU, UNISON, FOSIS (the Federation of Student Islamic Students), and the ECU(Equality Challenge Unit) take seriously the threat of terrorism and believe that all thosewho would advocate or carry out attacks like those in London last July, must be isolated,identified and stopped.

The guidance issued to universities and colleges today - whilst improved from previousleaked drafts - will however not solve all the issues, nor does it give sufficient emphasis toconcrete steps to improve good campus relations.

University and college staff and students need to be given simple, clear advice about whoto contact in their institution if they suspect violent extremism or terrorist activity of anykind. Any link with the authorities should be through a senior member of staff designatedfor that purpose.

Where this guidance is to be implemented at local level, it should only be after consultationwith the recognised staff unions and student unions.

Implementation should not focus on individuals' religion and ethnicity, since this canjeopardise trust and confidence between staff and students and between staff, studentsand their institution.

Any implementation should recognise that demonising Muslims is unacceptable anddangerous - whether in educational institutions or in communities. Students and staffshould be assured by their institutions that there is no intention of adding to a climate ofIslamophobia.

Enquiry, discussion and debate must continue to flourish in universities and colleges.Radicalism must not be conflated with terrorism.

Freedom of debate is essential if educational institutions are to continue providing amoderating environment where people learn about different cultures and communities,ideas are challenged and diversity is valued as integral to the role of the institution.

There should be absolute respect for academic freedom as statutorily defined and thereshould be no criminalisation of legitimate debate.

All institutions should have a robust strategy for defeating racism and Islamophobia andpromoting better race relations on campus. Assistance from the ECU is available tofacilitate this.

(The document 'Preventing Extremism Together' provides some useful suggestions as does'Promoting Good Campus Relations' published by Universities UK (UUK), ECU and Guild UKwith support from UCU, NUS and Unison.)

Universities should be encouraged to connect with the communities they serve as requiredby the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

17 November 2006

Promoting Good Campus Relations: Working With Staff and Students to Build Community Cohesion and Tackle ViolentExtremism in the Name of Islam at Universities and Colleges. DfES
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