St Hilda’s JCR tries to prevent ‘Prevent’

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St Hilda’s College JCR passed a motion seeking to “boycott Prevent” earlier this week.

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act (2015) requires universities to implement ‘Prevent Duty’, a series of measures designed to ensure “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

Oxford will have to be fully compliant with Prevent by August this year; the Higher Education and Funding Council for England has been given responsibility to monitor how the been given responsibility to monitor how the University has met the new counter-terrorism.

The motion, proposed by the JCR President and seconded by the St Hilda’s student BME officer, mandates JCR officers “not to co-operate with the Prevent strategy” and to “boycott it as far as legally possible”.

The JCR has also committed to “lobby the College to be completely open and transparent about how it is engaging with Prevent” by providing the JCR with access to the publications used to train staff and students to spot potentially radicalised individuals, as well as to hold consultations within the student body.

Hilda’s JCR president, Mollie MacGinty, argued that “the act further criminalises Muslims and black people,” and raised concerns that the concepts of ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalism’ are “ill defined and open to abuse for political ends”.

The Oxford University Student Union passed a similar motion in October last year to “not cooperate with the [government’s] Prevent strategy”. In February 2015, over 500 academics signed an open letter condemning the Counter Terrorism and Security Act when it received Royal Assent, declaring that it remains “a threat to freedom of speech at universities.”

Aliya Yule, third year undergraduate at Wadham and the proposer of the OUSU motion last year, told Cherwell , “The new Prevent legislation (2015) poses a huge threat to all students, but in particular Muslim and BME students. “Most notably, plans to implement the legislation include monitoring prayer rooms and religious facilities, having welfare staff , including JCR and MCR Welfare Offi cers, trained to look out for signs of ‘extremism’, and stopping people speaking whose views could be deemed problematic. In a climate of increasing Islamophobia, and in a university where 60 per cent of BME students feel “The Prevent legislation poses a huge threat to all students”unwelcome or uncomfortable on account of their race or ethnicity, Prevent will have a hugely negative impact on Muslim and BME students.”

Yussef Robinson, who is the BME officer at St Hilda’s and who seconded the motion, said, “Our Counselling Service will now be trained and required to report on ‘suspicious’ students. This is inherently awful and it will further marginalise BME students at the University; we will now feel less comfortable approaching the counselling service. I would have been far less able to have an effective discussion in my counselling sessions if I thought my words might be reported back to the state.”

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