The Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol – Open Letter to University of Bristol Senate Members

Dear Member of the University of Bristol Senate,

We are writing to you about the suite of Prevent Duty-related policy documents at the next meeting of Senate on 18th April (SN/15-16/044; SN/15-16/050).

The policies reference therein – Freedom of Speech Statement; External Speakers’ Procedure, Risk Assessment and Action Plan, IT Services Policy – are the University’s response to the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Prevent Duty Monitoring Framework.

We agree with the University and College Union (UCU) official position that the Prevent Duty seriously threatens academic freedom, stifles campus activism, encourages racial profiling and does not promote an open and supportive learning environment.

The above policies will institutionalise the Prevent Duty at the University of Bristol with potentially damaging consequences for freedom of speech, for general campus debate and discussion as well as for the University’s commitment to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or religion.

We agree with the Bristol Students’ Union where in its Prevent Duty policy, it states ‘any expectation by the state for academic staff to be involved in monitoring their students is deeply worrying, and could have a chilling effect on relations between staff and students’.

Staff and students at the University of Bristol are proud of their commitment to, and record of, challenging any expression of prejudice or discrimination directed against any group or individual. Where any safeguarding or a duty of care concern is raised that may put a member of this University at risk of harm, there are already established procedures of prompt referral at Bristol.

Staff and students are also committed to the notion that is essential that in order to explore views and opinions and where necessary, challenge them, we must actively promote a climate of free discussion and debate on the University of Bristol campus. Critically, legitimate political opinions or research interests expressed by staff or students are not ‘extreme’ or legitimising ‘extremism’. For example, it is perfectly legitimate to criticise all aspects of UK foreign policy.

We believe that current University of Bristol Prevent Duty-related proposals do not take fully into account our concerns about the Prevent Duty. They normalise a culture of risk aversion, of monitoring and surveillance, and if misapplied, will engender precisely the kind of intolerance that the Prevent Duty is supposed to ward against.

Furthermore, Senate members should be aware that the University of Bristol is responding to the terms of the Higher Education Funding Council for England Prevent Duty Framework. To note that Prevent ‘requirements [were] imposed upon the University’ (SN/15-16/050) is to gloss over the University’s authorship of individual policies. There is more scope for a ‘non-party line’ than is suggested. Other University management teams have adopted a more independent yet hardly extra-legal or irresponsible position – see the recent article by Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Professor Julius Weinberg, ‘I won’t stop offering a platform to so-called “hate speakers”’, The Guardian, 23rd February 2016.

Yours faithfully,

• James Thompson, History
• Tracey Hooper, Bristol UCU President
• Mark Harvey, Academic Registry
• Jamie Melrose, Bristol UCU Vice President & SPAIS
• Dan Godshaw, SPAIS
• Isabel Stockton, Department of Economics
• Richard Porter, Mathematics
• Professor Tonia Novitz, Law
• Andrew Hicks, English
• Isabel de Salis, Social and Community Medicine
• Mark Jackson, Geographical Sciences
• John McTague, English
• Jonas Langner, Modern Languages
• Professor Carl Dettmann, Mathematics
• Peter Barham, Professor Emeritus, School of Physics
• Josie Gill , English
• Claire O Neill, Management
• Megan Blomfield, Philosophy
• Rutvica Andrijasevic, Management
• Richard Sessions, Biochemistry
• Mascia Amici, Physiology Pharmacology and Neuroscience
• Stephan Lewandowsky, Experimental Psychology
• Michael Malay, English
• Esther Jones Russell, Alumnus, Modern Languages
• Jack Hazeldine, Library Services
• Zack M, Physics & Philosophy
• Neema Begum, SPAIS
• Sally Ware, SPAIS
• Natalie Jester, SPAIS
• Ruth Bush, Modern Languages
• George Clarke, SPAIS
• Ben Marshall, Electrical and Electronic Engineering
• Christopher Bertram, Philosophy
• Noha Abu El Magd, Bristol SU BME Officer & Physics
• Jakob Hartl, SPAIS
• Rowena Salmon, Historical Studies
• Matilda Haymes, English
• Keava Mascott, Biology
• Matthew Wright, Chemistry
• Liam Robinson, Aerospace Engineering
• Ed Atkins, Law
• Mwenza Blell, Archaeology & Anthropology
• William Williams, Earth Sciences
• Aslak-Antti Oksanen, SPAIS
• Rhian Grant, Philsophy
• Hannah Dualeh, Psychology & Bristol SU BME Officer Elect
• Leigh-Ann Clarke, English
• Stephen Le Fanu, Biological Sciences
• Alex Franklin, School of Arts
• Arabella Champignon-le-Bois, Modern Languages
• Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy, Mathematics
• Kevin Doogan, SPS
• Ricky Tutin, EFIM
• Elizabeth Evans, SPAIS
• Michael Rickard, IT Services
• Blair Matthews, CELFS
• Prof Jutta Weldes, SPAIS
• Steve Condliffe, IT Services
• Colin Lazarus, Biological Sciences
• John Foot, Italian
• Mike Barton, Electrical & Electronic Engineering
• Saffron Karlsen, SPAIS
• Elspeth Van Veeren, SPAIS
• Andrew James, Physiology and Pharmacology
• Stephen D’Evelyn, Bristol UCU Secretary
• Radhika Jani, English
• Maria Fannin, Geographical Sciences
• Scott Greenwell, Physics
• Laura Lyddon, SPAIS
• Dr Yvette Russell, Law
• Jess Hambly, Law
• Jeremy Green, SPAIS
• Jule Mulder, Law

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