Universities UK and the hidden hand of terror/freedom of speech

In a convulsive act of responsive policy and positioning, a new publication on freedom of speech in Universities has hit the shelves. This, I suspect, is going to be interesting reading – it is from the Vice-Chancellor’s cabal we know and love as ‘Universities UK’ – a name for the infinite escalation of ego and salary combined.
I’m thinking repressive tolerance, containment and plea-bargain all in one neat dialectical formula – ‘freedom with constraints’. The context is – as ever – the security of the West but I suppose we could think of this as an example of touching base with the alumni gone wrong. In a fully understandable move given that a 2010 review cleared UCL of any role in radicalizing its students, it seems a working party was set up ‘following the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in the United States on Christmas Day 2009 for an attempted act of terrorism. Eighteen months previously he had graduated from UCL’
Let’s check that all the buttons have been pressed:
– Islamophobic identifier in the name ✔ [no mention of underpants]
– wholesome ‘our side’ values reference to christian consumer festival
– attempted act of terrorism, clearly foiled by our intrepid allies the US ✔
– absolution in the passage of time (eighteen months)✔
Another fine production by Crusader spin inc. ✔

And because no-one, simply no-one, can do anything without a podcast these days, there is also a youtube video, with the UCL Provost talking about how we dont want students spying on each other and the best way to ensure freedom of speech is to have ‘openness, publicity, transparency and challenge’. Hear Hear!

In the report, then, there is the mysterious hand of not-at-all openness (my italics):

Indeed, the setting up of the Working Group behind this report was prompted by the events of Christmas Day 2009 when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was apprehended in attempting to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Eighteen months previously he had graduated from University College London, where he had also been president of the student Islamic Society. An independent inquiry chaired by Professor Dame Fiona Caldicott concluded unequivocally that there was no evidence to suggest that he had been radicalised during his time as a student, and MI5 see the hand of the Yemen-based preacher Anwar Al Awlaqi in his conversion to violent extremism

The front cover of the report pictures a woman with a megaphone in a green jumper, and in front of her another woman reaching into her back-pack… [just sayin’, see here]
And then on Page 39, for those not wanting to read the entire thing, is a diagram about accepting bookings for rooms on campus. The shorthand box is that bookings will be referred to security and could be refused if the booking or group involves/raises:

Potential Controversial Issues:
• subject to adverse media attention
• Associated with a campaign or political pressure group
• A faith or belief group whose views may be deemed as being discriminatory or inflammatory to others

Great material here for my Pantomime Terror book!
Because there needs to be a critical voice on this, here is an invitation to comment on a few choice snippets from the press release that indicate the stakes in terms of knowledge production:

Prevent is the element of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy that has been most visible to universities. The Prevent strand aimed to support community cohesion and thereby deter or divert people away from violent extremism. The strategy is currently being reviewed by the Coalition Government and it is clear that its focus and approach will alter over the next few years

Universities UK, working with the sector, has also been examining issues relating to entirely legitimate research by academics into potentially sensitive areas, such as terrorism and extremism. The work has been looking at the handling of sensitive research materials, and how institutions might need to adapt practices and processes. UUK will publish a guidance note for institutions later in 2011

An independent review (headed by Dame Fiona Caldicott) into Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s time at UCL published its final report in  in October 2010. The central conclusion of the report was that there was no evidence to suggest either that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalised while a student at UCL, or that conditions at UCL during that time or subsequently were conducive to the radicalisation of students

Universities UK is the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Founded in 1918, its mission is to be the definitive voice for all universities in the UK

More to come…


Seems to be competing events at Goldsmiths on the 22nd.


Rally for an Alternative — For jobs, growth, justice

Tuesday 22 February 7pm–8.45pm

Refreshments, stalls and entertainment from 6pm
Goldsmiths College, New Cross

Brendan Barber General Secretary, TUC
Jody McIntyre Journalist and anti-cuts activist
Mick Burke Economist and journalist
Bindz Patel President, Goldsmiths Student Union
Doris Smith Lewisham Pensioners Forum and Save our NHS
Heather Wakefield UNISON Local Govt Nat Sec
plus local trade unions and anti-cuts activists

Go to Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre: access via gate at end of Laurie Grove, London SE14 6NH. Near New Cross stations and bus routes.

Organised by: Lewisham Trades Union Council with support of Goldsmiths Student Union.
For info email: no_cuts@yahoo.co.uk.
Or visit Lewisham says no to cuts — Rally for an Alternative on Facebook.

To download materials including an image to use on your website, visitwww.mulberrypromenade.org.uk/downloads.

Rally in support of the TUC national demonstration in London on March 26th ‘March for the alternative: jobs — growth — justice’, against the government’s draconian cuts and its effects on those least able to withstand them. We will hear from local and national campaigners about the alternative to cuts and how to build the broadest opposition and TUC demonstration.


Lewisham Carnival Against Cuts

Saturday 19th February From 11am, Lewisham, South East London

The largest community protest EVER staged in the UK! Dozens of demonstrations borough-wide, followed by one mass march. The day ordinary people become quite extraordinary. Saturday 19th February from 11am to 12 noon culminating in 2 minutes of noise from people banging on saucepans and kettles with wooden spoons and saucepan lids. OVER 100 community groups will stage protests at EVERY venue facing cuts or closure.

We will not let these cuts destroy our community.
We will not ignore this coalition’s policies.
We will not let Lewisham’s Labour Council continue on this path of waste, mismanagement and savage cuts.

  • Community groups opposed to library closures will organise carnival protests outside every threatened library.
  • Students will protest at every college across the borough.
  • Pensioners and others will be protesting outside Lewisham Hospital in support of the BMA objections to the changes to the NHS and creeping privatisation, and supporting concerns from nurses, Doctors, patients and healthworkers.
  • Young people will be protesting at youth provision venues facing cuts.
  • Residents associations & tenants groups will be organising an estate protest against council housing policy. No to 80% rent increases and loss of security of tenure.
  • Disabled groups will be protesting at community centres such as Open doors and Connexions facing closure and cuts.
  • Bank customers and UK Uncut will be protesting at banks opposed to our money being used to subsidise banks. Who in turn are paying out bonuses. What our government SAYS and DOES are two different things.
  • Transport – Public transport users will be protesting at selected rail stations in protest at the massive rise in the cost of travel while the train companies continue to make massive profits, exploiting peoples necessity to use public transport.
  • Allotment holders will be protesting against rising costs. Many may be priced out of their plots.
  • Unions will be organising action across the borough in support of hundreds of local workers facing job losses.
  • Local traders will be protesting against record increases in business rates, license fees and car parking charges for shoppers, whilst many shoppers will be protesting outside shops owned by companies who avoid paying tax in the UK
  • Teachers and parents will be protesting in support of the “No to Tidemill Academy Campaign” at Tidemill school in Deptford where the head teacher was paid over £240,000 last year, and £47,000 of our council tax was used to pay his pension contributions
  • Convoys Wharf development – in the largest development outside of the Olympics. Lewisham is set to get millions in planning gain money. The community will get almost nothing. Forty-four storey blocks will cut off the view of the Thames for local people. No jobs and no affordable housing are included. This is putting private profit before community need.
  • An armada of small boats will close the river Thames from Convoys Wharf and Canary Wharf to raise awareness of this extensive planning proposal that will see huge profits for the developers but no real community benefit for the people of Deptford.
  • Early Childhood Centres – parents and disabled groups will be protesting outside Amersham, Rushey Green, Downderry and Ackroyd  Early Years Centres and other services facing closure or cuts. There will also be protests at the loss of mobility allowance.
  • Homeless people and workers will be staging protests at hostels against 60% cuts to services affecting the most vulnerable people.

At 12.30pm people will start assembling from across the borough outside the Town Hall in Catford to march to Lewisham Town Centre for a short rally with guest speakers.

Goldsmiths will be holding a social event on the evening of the protest.

This will be the model protest for the rest of the country to follow.


Lewisham People Before Profit – Carnival Against Cuts
www.LPBP.org.uk www.CarnivalAgainstCuts.org.uk

This event has the support of:

  • Business leaders
  • Resident Associations
  • Commuter passenger groups
  • Keep Our NHS Public
  • Pensioners groups
  • Local Trader Associations
  • Disability Campaign groups
  • No to Academy campaigners
  • Youth leaders
  • All of Lewisham’s Unions
  • Political parties – Lewisham People Before Profit, Socialist Party, Green Party and others
  • Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance
  • Right to Work Campaign
  • UK Uncut
  • Goldsmiths Students and lecturers
  • Save Lewisham’s Libraries campaigns


Piracy as activism

Piracy as activism



In spite of its long and intense presence in the popular imagery, piracy is a concept that has only scarcely and timidly been linked to forms of political activism. Mostly seen through the lens of criminalisation and policing (including also the transgression of the existing order by the heroic pirates) piracy has rarely been analysed in relation to its influence in shaping the everyday life of contemporary communities. Mostly seen through the lens of criminalisation and policing (including also the transgression of the existing order by the heroic pirates) piracy has rarely been analysed in relation to its influence in shaping the everyday life of contemporary communities. Piracy, in the seas or lands or digital networks, encompasses a wide array of practices that shape, and often transform, these spaces and networks.