Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

In Union With The UCU

It's not often I agree with the University and College Union, but I have to say that I'm with them when they reject the government's request for them to monitor Islamic extremism within the student population.

The government has published guidance encouraging staff to be vigilant against violent extremism and "unacceptable literature or guest speakers" (whatever that means). The lecturers have said that such an approach amounted to asking lecturers to spy on their students. Now the government (specifically John Denham) is whinging at them and saying that universities should help students to build bridges towards a more "cohesive society". Give me strength.

Some of the campaigning and recruiting that takes place on university campuses might be undesirable, some of it may even be illegal, but the UCU is right in refusing to do the government's dirty work for them.

The problem is partly where this is likely to lead. What other "unacceptable" behaviour would the government expect the UCU to police on their behalf ? Affiliations with other religions ? "Right-wing" extremist activity ? Communist activity ? Membership of the Conservative Party ? If the governement wants to snoop on its people (as we all know it does) then they should do it themselves, and not expect some of their employees to do it for them. Better still, they shouldn't do it at all.

It's good to see the UCU striking a blow for freedom of speech. It's a pity that they weren't doing the same in the 1980's, when anyone on a university campus espousing views anywhere to the right of Tony Benn ran the risk of getting their heads kicked in, but still, it's a start.

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