CAGE express our solidarity with David Muritu, a Maths lecturer at Sandwell College who has been fired for ‘gross misconduct’ by college management after writing ‘racist’ on a college poster promoting the PREVENT policy.
David is an active, and effective, branch secretary for the college’s UCU branch, and previously served as head of the UCU’s national Black Members Standing Committee, as well as head of the UCU branch at Halesowen College. There he was similarly victimised for his union work and fired back in 2013.
A toxic policy forced on academia to silence challenging voices
The role of PREVENT in colleges today provides a window into the nature of British education system which activists like David must contend with today. This means the fight against PREVENT is an integral part of the struggle to comprehensively transform education so that it better serves all who seek to partake in it.
PREVENT was thrust upon the education sector in the 2011 update of the programme – at the same time that the new Coalition government was imposing massive and sustained cuts to college budgets, intensifying the restructure of the college sector and shrinking job security for lecturers.
This was also, of course, in the shadow of the 2010 student uprisings, in which colleges – students and lecturers alike – played a significant role in campaigning against government policy regarding tuition fee increases, as well as regressive changes of education on the whole.
PREVENT therefore emerged in a context where the hierarchy between college management and staff was under “threat” of change intensified, and when the interests of educationalists vs management were thrown more sharply into conflict.
The scene was set for management to intervene more aggressively demanding greater disciplinary tools to tackle ‘wayward’ staff and students..
With the surveillance culture it casts over education, and the manner in which it pits students against staff, transforming the relationship between those who should be natural allies into one of distrust and suspicion, PREVENT is the ideal “disciplinary” measure for management bodies to silence challenging voices in academia. .
For solidarity to flourish, PREVENT must be abolished
Furthermore, in colleges specifically, the greater regulation of the Prevent duty, through the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, has allowed for greater monitoring of teaching content – binding teaching staff to the dubious and disputed principle of ‘Fundamental British Values’, while also providing an opportunity for management to clamp down on dissenting staff.
PREVENT in education is therefore a mechanism of control and management, and an anti-solidarity tool, akin to policies of blacklisting that have long haunted workers in British industry.
PREVENT, in its prescriptiveness when it comes to what does and doesn’t constitute legitimate dissent, is an anathema to trade unions and trade unionists like David, as well as being completely counterproductive to a diverse and impactful academic sector.
Challenging and combating PREVENT should be central to the work of unionists and activists – something that David has acknowledged and acted upon consistently, as a matter of principle and as an expression of solidarity to the Muslim community
At this time we extend our solidarity in return to him.
We encourage people to sign the petition calling for David Muritu’s reinstatement here: https://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/reinstate-david-muritu
And to join the protest at David’s college on Friday 7 June, 11.30am Sandwell College, Central Campus, 1 Spon Lane, West Bromwich B70 6AW.
Photo courtesy of UCU
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)