UNIVERSITY and college lecturers yesterday morning voted unanimously to reject government plans to instruct university staff to report students for ‘extremism’.
The controversial proposals, first mooted last year, were universally condemned by delegates at the inaugural congress of the University and College Union (UCU) in Bournemouth.
The motion, from the UCU transitional arrangements committee, expressed outrage at the continuing ‘demonisation of Muslim and other minority communities’, adding that this threatened to impinge on education.
It opposed the ethnic profiling of students and staff, and pledged to challenge the ‘incursions of the security and immigration services to university and college campuses’.
The UCU would also defend the right of members to refuse to cooperate with attempts to ‘transform education into an extension of the security forces’.
The unanimous vote is a ringing endorsement of the position adopted by the union at the end of last year opposing the plans.
Commenting immediately after the vote, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘UCU delegates in Bournemouth have made it clear this morning that they will oppose government attempts to restrict academic freedom or free speech on campus.
‘Lecturers want to teach students, if they wanted to police them they would have joined the force.
‘Lecturers have a pivotal role in building trust. These proposals, if implemented, would make that all but impossible.
‘Universities must remain safe spaces for lecturers and students to discuss and debate all sorts of ideas, including those that some people may consider challenging, offensive and even extreme.
‘The last thing we need is people too frightened to discuss an issue because they fear some quasi-secret service will turn them in.’
The conference backed a call for a wide-ranging debate on a possible boycott of Israeli universities.
Conference was urged to consider the ‘moral implications’ of links with Israeli institutions.
The motion condemned Israel for its ‘denial of educational rights’ for the Palestinian people.