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When Prevent prevents freedom of speech

Is the impact of Prevent legislation on campuses a question of political in-correctness gone mad, or, does it depend on how the university interprets it?

Earlier this year I was expecting to deliver a talk to a Universities and Colleges Union meeting called to oppose the University of Warwick management’s proposal to reform Statute 24. This refers to amendments to the university’s procedures for disciplinary, grievance, redundancy and removal for incapacity on medical grounds for academic staff. I had been asked seven days previously to address the meeting, but because Warwick has a requirement to give three weeks’ notice for approval of a visiting speaker, the organisers felt the meeting was unable to proceed.

Warwick’s ‘three-week rule’ is one of the procedures adopted by the university under the government’s Prevent agenda. I was invited to an emergency meeting and the union organisers needed to find a speaker fast. Understandably, they had other things on their minds and forgot to apply for speaker approval. Warwick administrators quickly responded to say that they had received no application for speaker approval, and indeed would not have refused any application on my behalf.

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