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Responses to Prevent Consultation

Preventing Prevent

The University has released a revised Freedom of Speech policy that aims to minimalise the risk of radicalisation by restricting potentially dangerous individuals being invited onto campus as external speakers.

The revised version was released following concerns from students and staff that a proposed update to the policy was unclear, impractical and potentially prejudicial to certain student groups, who cite examples of the way in which the Governments’ Prevent agenda has been implemented in a discriminatory manner in the past.

The Students’ Union Executive Committee have since reviewed the revised Freedom of Speech, which represents something of an improvement. Annie, the Students’ Union President has commented favourably on the changes made in response to the consultation, stating: “I am relieved to see that the External Speaker policy the University has created in line with Prevent policy is less restrictive than what was originally proposed”

Students and staff were invited to give their feedback on the proposed update to inform the recently released revised version. The Students’ Union’s Executive have condemned Prevent in the past, and vocally opposed it once more during this consultation.

The consultation was well attended, and many students were able to comment on how the University should approach their Freedom of Speech policy. Students pressed for clarity in the definitions of terms that figured prominently in the legislature,  such as ‘extremism’ and ‘risk’ which could prove open to misinterpretation - sentiments echoed in the response from the Students’ Union’s Executive Committee.

"It was welcoming to see that there was consultation across the whole campus community on this External Speakers Prevent policy and although the Students' Union oppose Prevent as a whole, I hope that we have limited the worst effects of what is a restrictive and unjust policy. - Annie Pickering, Students' Union President"

Moving forward, the Students’ Union remains opposed to Prevent, and seek to limit much of the damaging effect the agenda could have on our campus community.

By engaging in this consultation hope  hopes to ensure that the student voice is heard on the matter of Prevent, which we see as a restrictive policy on the ability of students to organise politically, free from harassment.

The Students’ Union Executive Committee appreciates that there has now been a period of consultation for developing a prevent policy in compliance with government regulations, however a longer period of consultation for futures policies would be preferred.

You can read the full response to the consultation here.

Prominent societies who feel most at threat from the potentially discriminatory nature of Prevent; including the Islamic Society and Palestinian Society, have written responses to the recent consultation, which you can read in summary below:

 

Sussex Islamic Society

The Islamic society, via former president Ridwan Barbhuiyan, registered concerns that whilst they concur with much of the existing framework concerning free speech, there is a risk of “over-moderation”.

Ridwan went on to state that the Islamic society was broadly in agreement with the motivation behind the Prevent agenda (that of preventing radicalisation), but raised concerns over the proposed implementation.

You can read ISoc’s full response here.

 

Sussex Friends of Palestine

Supporters of the Sussex Friends of Palestine society (PalSoc) were in accordance with the National Union of Students’ call for Prevent to be scrapped - quoting instances where they believed support for Palestine was unfairly targeted by the agenda.

PalSoc stated that they believed Prevent would contribute to the legitimisation of racism and Islamophobia on campus.

Should Prevent be implemented as part of the University’s new Freedom of Speech policy; PalSoc called for the university to ensure that the policy did not stifle debate on Palestinian rights and Middle East affairs, as well as calling for explicit insistence that vocal support for Palestinian rights should not be cause for an individual to be treated with undue suspicion.

You can read Sussex Friends of Palestine Society’s full response to the consultation here.

 

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