Response to recent Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-15

SRC have recently responded to the Scottish Government consultation with regards to guidance for Higher Education institutions and the role they should play in preventing extremism on campus.

Glasgow University East Quad

I firmly believe that our students should feel comfortable in this university to express their opinions and religious beliefs; we must protect our right to freedom of thought and expression, challenge those with opposing views and make our voice heard, while we still can.

Putting academics and in some cases the SRC, in charge of spying on and reporting students who happen to be parts of certain groups the authorities believe are ‘at risk’ of being radicalised is first off a huge burden of responsibility, impractical to implement but more importantly creates an atmosphere of mistrust and fear which will manifest on campus between students and their lecturers. Why should our students sit in class with this fear, it doesn’t bode well for creating an effective learning environment.

The consultation that we responded to was not made available to the public or publicised on the Scottish Government website, I expected better of the, normally progressive, Scottish Government. The consultation opened on December 17th, only a few days before most public bodies closed for the festive period. I only found out about it through a chance phone call with a representative from outwit of our own University. Unfortunately there may be other public bodies which will be affected by this but might not have had the same opportunity to respond.

Some of the measures suggested are extremely intrusive to people’s personal lives while at the same time reinforcing stereotypes that can further isolate students who are already stereotyped and marginalised in society.

If the Counter Terrorism Bill and guidance is adopted in its current state then this will force a responsibility on Universities, and subsequently the SRC, to “prevent people being drawn into terrorism” alongside the banning of “non-violent extremist” speakers, something which is not illegal, we well as allow the University to “identify and address issues where online materials are accessed for non-research purposes”. Where they have specified that they would “expect universities to have policies relating to the use of IT on campus… covering what is and is not permissible,” where the Government “would expect these policies to contain specific reference to the statutory duty.”

However these terms are vague and this can only lead to confusion over what is expected under the new law. We believe this will have the effect of stifling the debate which in turn threatens academic freedom and restricting freedom of speech about important topics which we value so much at University of Glasgow.

The bill is currently being discussed in Westminster, however authority over this matter is held within Scottish parliament, therefore the Scottish Government will be submitting their own guidance to the Home Office, which they are expecting to be accepted with little dispute. I’ll add here that the Scottish guidance is a lot more reasonable than the bill down south.

We will continue to oppose this bill on behalf of all students at University of Glasgow.