Universities in the UK should be a safe space that provide for free expression and positive learning, but instead, University College London has embarked on a campaign to silence radical student voices challenging oppressive practice.
In recent months, the university has embarked upon a targeted campaign of silencing student dissent and protests on campus through management intimidation, scare tactics and the threat of disciplinary action.
On 27th October 2016, a group of UCL students came together to protest an intended talk by Hen Mazzig who was invited by UCL Friends of Israel to speak at an event on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Hen Mazzig is a reservist in the Israeli military and was speaking about his activities enforcing the illegal military occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, considered a war crime under international law.
The UCL students’ non-violent protest was made up of students from a range of diverse backgrounds and included chants calling for an end to violence against Palestinians and the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the waving of flags and traditional Dabke dancing.
Protesting students persisted despite being verbally harassed by groups and individuals from outside the university such as Sussex Friends of Israel and individuals such as UCL alumnus Elliot Miller who was caught on video pushing a student.
Individuals from this group shouted racist slurs against black students on the protest, such as "the Home Office should follow you up”, “get out of our country" and called announcing that "Islam is a violent religion".
In the days following the meeting Mazzig repeatedly tried to depict our opposition to his event as the protest of “an angry Arab mob”. This amounts to the racial profiling of resident British UCL based students.
They were then subjected to a malicious, politically motivated complaint. The response from UCL was to racially profile five students and serve them with notice of impending disciplinary action.
All five are active in student politics, and all are either Muslim, Arab, Asian or Black. The five students together, have contributed to the fundraising of thousands of pounds going towards humanitarian aid in Africa and the Middle-East. They have helped to launch various campaigns such as Israel Apartheid week, Black Lives Matter and leadership and management programmes.
These Black and minority ethnic students are currently being targeted and harassed by UCL management as a consequence. These actions by UCL management, we believe, constitute an intolerable restriction of the human rights of students seeking to express political opinions on issues of concern.
Alarmingly the university has so far failed to investigate the racist slurs that UCL students were subjected too. This injustice is now further compounded by UCL racially profiling and adding and abetting the malicious smearing of students of colour, who were simply exercising their rights to free expression and lawful protest.
Groups external to the university made malicious and vindictive accusations which were backed up by inaccurate depictions of the protest and had no objective supporting evidence.
This raises serious concerns about the veracity of the original complaint and the subsequent impartiality of the investigation conducted by UCL management.
This seems to be part of a wider campaign of suppressing student activism and protest on UCL campuses, and is echoed in "crackdowns" on other UCL student and staff protests.
For example, a number of UCL students active in the Fossil Free campaign have also been issued a notice of disciplinary action. Fossil Free is a student led branch of the international campaign on campus to pressure the university into divesting from fossil fuel companies.
This unnecessary, aggressive and authoritarian behaviour by UCL management is counterproductive, unfair and only serves to intimidate students who are already feeling intimidated and restricted in their ability to freely engage in democratic debate and political protest.
The actions of UCL management flies in the face of the founding principles and academic philosophy on which UCL is based, a secular institution of free thinking, political and academic debate.
We demand that UCL drops all the disciplinary procedures against the five students concerned, and enter into dialogue with a view to examining the culture of political persecution of Black and minority ethnic students on campus at UCL.
We the undersigned urge you to:
Join our campaign to challenge UCL management's racial profiling and political intimidation of students it disagrees with.
Support the five UCL students who were part of a peaceful protest against a meeting being addressed by Hen Mazzig, an Israeli military reservist, who have been subjected to a malicious complaint, resulting in UCL instigating disciplinary action after receiving a malicious complaint from Sussex Friends of Israel.
We ask that you write to UCL Vice Provost of Operations; Rex Knight and the UCL Provost; Michael Arthur, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, expressing your concern about UCL management's actions and subsequent racial profiling and targeting of students on religious grounds.
We ask that you join the Defend the UCL5 campaign by adding your name / organisation to this statement initiated by Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UK and the NUS Black Students Campaign, that you use the #DefendUCL5 hashtag to publicise. Email email@example.com to add your name to the statement and send messages of support.
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) UKNUS Black Students Campaign
Sean Wallis, Vice President UCL UCU, UCU NEC member
Zita Holbourne, PCS Union Acting Vice President & Co-Chair BARAC UK
Neil Rogall, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, UCL Graduate (1972)
Anne Cooper, Writer, Unite Community
Hassina Malik, Assistant Branch Secretary, Lambeth UNISON
Adie Mormech, Student at Manchester Met University GDL
Rob Ahmed. 1st Year Chemical Engineering Student at UCL.
Abdel Mahmoud, UCL student
Donna Guthrie, Unite Branch LE127 Co-Equalities Officer (pc) & BARAC Women's Officer
Dr. Louis Bayman, University of Southampton
Tahmidur Rahman, 3rd Year Student of English at UCL
Jen Izaakson, Unison
Simmi Dullay, Black Cultural Producer
Margaret Kabasinde, retired
Diane Langford, Writer
Nana Asante, Chairperson - Africans for Momentum / Africans for Jeremy Corbyn Values, Secretary - IDPAD Coalition UK
Rhiannon Lockley, West Midlands Chair UCU (PC)
Nat Raha, University of Sussex and Edinburgh College of Art
Lee Jasper, Blaksox
Lee Jasper, Blaksox
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