The Student Union Council convened on Tuesday 9th February to determine key motions put forward by a number of students to address SU officer accountability, the SU’s position on the PREVENT strategy and ethical banking at the University of Nottingham.
The first motion, addressing the accountability of Student-Run Services (SRS), was presented by Luke Watkins, who argued that the role, responsibilities and power of the scrutiny panel needed clarification.
Luke proposed a scoring system for the SU officers on a scale of 1-10 and highlighted the importance of the panel being given greater freedom in questioning officers during discussion.
The only change to the motion was the decision to add a Postgraduate Officer to the panel wherever possible, and the motion was passed at 17 ‘yes’ votes to 1 ‘no’ vote.
“The issue of whether the SU officers were opposed to working with PREVENT, the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, was also discussed”
The issue of whether the SU officers were opposed to working with PREVENT, the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, was also discussed.
The motion, as put forward by Moonish Iqbal, Roaa Alalwany, Masooma Malik and Mevish Rauf, argued that PREVENT is ultimately a counter-productive initiative that essentially institutionalises Islamophobia and racism. The proposal was to mandate the officers of the SU not to engage with the PREVENT strategy.
Examples such as the ‘Nottingham Two’ – where a University of Nottingham student and staff member were arrested for suspected involvement with Islamic terrorism – and an Independent petition, highlighting that PREVENT is not working, were used to show why PREVENT was leading to concerns.
When the motion was opened up to debate, one audience member argued that such measures may put pressure on academics, using the example of the lecturer in 2011 who spoke out against the University in regards to the ‘Nottingham Two’ situation and who was ultimately suspended by the University.
“Sam Peake highlighted […] the fact that the SU have a role within University committees which may force them to engage with PREVENT”
Sam Peake, Community Officer for the SU, highlighted that two semantic points within the motion needed to be clarified: the nature of the ‘non-engage’ proposal, and the fact that the SU have a role within University committees which may force them to engage with PREVENT.
In response, the motions speakers highlighted that they wanted the SU to state their opposition to engagement with PREVENT when talking to the University, and to present it in writing.
Additionally, an audience member suggested that PREVENT was not only about spying but also about bringing in debates; they believed that, rather than objecting to what is a 60-page document, they should instead work on the parts that need to be discussed and revised.
“Since the SU is not currently trained on PREVENT, a training program may be useful in combatting the problem within the University”
In response to this, another audience member highlighted that the ordeal of interrogations can remain with the individuals long after the situation has ended. The audience member also noted that PREVENT has been modified four times already, and very little has changed in the way of treatment for specific ethnic groups.
One of the final audience points suggested that, since the SU is not currently trained on PREVENT, a training program may be useful in combatting the problem within the University. When taken to the panel vote, the motion to disengage with PREVENT was passed by 12 ‘yes’ votes to 6 ‘no’.
The final proposal of the session concerned the nature of ethical banking, with Scott Jennings proposing that the SU move its account from Natwest to a more “ethical” bank, with the recommended option being Nottingham Credit Union, and a list of 6 other banks thereafter.
The motion was ultimately amended to remove the list of acceptable banks from the proposal after a discussion with the SU officers, and became focused on the University looking into the practicalities of ethical banking.
As the votes of the panel were shared, the motion ultimately went to a referendum and will be debated again at the next Union Council.
Image: ivanatman via Flickr