Following the sit-in by Students Not Suspects Edinburgh University on 25 April, the students sent the following message to senior staff at the university.
You may have heard of or received notice of the overnight student sit-in in the main library regarding the Prevent counter-terrorism agenda which took place on Monday 25th April.
As a senior member of the university administration, we wanted to reach out to you and summarise the aim and intent of the protest.
This short video made during the sit-in gives a good overview of our aims, and of the vibrant and engaging reception from the student body on the issue: https://vimeo.com/164233238
We fundamentally believe the Prevent counter-terrorism agenda does not exist to protect students, but rather to scapegoat and target those from already marginalised communities. The legislation and the narrative surrounding it is harmful to students, legitimises racist and Islamophobic profiling, suppresses dissent, and undermines the autonomous position of universities and their role in challenging the status quo.
Over the course of the night, we spoke to hundreds of students about the negative effects of the policy. Most of them were disgusted to learn about this policy and its implementation on our campus.
We were thrilled that internationally renowned academic Professor Nira Yuval Davis, who delivered the yearly Chrystal Macmillan lecture on Monday, came and spoke to us about everyday bordering at our sit-in. She came to support our opposition to the policy, stating her belief in the importance of having open, unpoliced spaces where truly dangerous extremist currents in all ideologies (including Islam) can be discussed and challenged.
We understand that Prevent is government policy, and that as public bodies, universities have a statutory duty to implement it, but that doesn't mean they can wash their hands of responsibility for their policies. Universities are key public bodies with direct access to public officials, they can and should use this to influence changes in policies which are detrimental to the student body and the public at large.
We have collected almost 400 signatures on our petition calling on the university to issue a statement opposing the policy and engage further with our campaign, which is attached in its current form (we are continuing to collect signatures).
We hope the university will take both their moral responsibility as public actors, and the views of these concerned students seriously, and take a public stance in opposing the Prevent policy. In doing so, the University of Edinburgh would join several other esteemed universities – including Warwick, Kingston, Kings and SOAS - which have spoken out publicly about the harmful and counterproductive results of the Prevent policy.
We would also like to see the university commit to a sustained lobbying campaign of the Home Office to repeal this policy, and to commit to student consultation and public announcement of any further changes to University policy as a result of Prevent. We also ask the University to allow the Students’ Association to revert back to their standard room booking procedures, as EUSA is an autonomous entity which is not subject to Prevent legislation, but has been forced to comply with the university’s new room booking policy.
Representatives of our campaign would be glad to meet with you to discuss these matters further.
Students Not Suspects Edinburgh University
LeadingPhoto: Students Not Suspects Edinburgh University
Vetting of Speakers under Prevent
Room booking form from Edinburgh University: