July 23, 2009

London Residential

By David Miller

The Teaching About Terrorism Group held a very positive two day seminar in London in early June. A range of issues were discussed including

  • discussions with the UCU about how to defend members who were attacked in the press as had happened to members of the group at Aberystwyth who had been targeted by Melanie Phillips, in allegations rejected by the University.
  • Discussion about the Nottingham case and its implications for academic freedom.
  • discussion about the wide variety of experiences that members had in teaching and research terrorism.
  • The implications of government guidance on good campus relations for teaching about terrorism.

The group to take forward a number of initiatives including policy guidance and research activities, some of which relate to the grant we have been given by C-SAP to survey terrorism teaching and experience.

The group agreed that student experiences relating to the teaching of terrorism would be an invaluable element of our work. and that we would make contact with a number of groups which might have experiences or information to share and to report back on this.

Policy outputs of relevance include the Department for Innovation Universities and Schools document (Promoting good campus relations, fostering shared values and preventing violent extremism in Universities and Higher Education Colleges, ) The group discussed ways of feeding the views of the teaching community on such documents back to policy makers. We noted that the UCU has a rep for Academic Freedom and it was suggested that this and other similar fora would be useful points for consultation.

The meeting tapped into a wide range of academic experiennces of good and not so good practice in handling some of the issues in teaching terrorism. It was felt that the richness of the experience at the meeting was likely to be replicated in the filed and the group resolved to call for the submission of experiences from academics across the UK about the challenges and opportunities of teaching about terrorism.

The group also discussed the issue of gathering data on how terrorism is taught and noted the interesting project launched by the American Political Science Association which provides some comparative data on how terrorism is taught in the US.

The meeting agreed it was important to capture the views and experience of University management on this issue.  Since the events at Nottingham, anecdotal evidence suggests a variety of responses by the Universities.  The research will seek out examples of good and bad practice in order to provide guidance where possible.

Lastly the group agreed to undertake a number of dissemination activities including setting up a page on the C-SAP website, the creation of a blog and a number of events jointly organisated with disciplinary and subject networks including a joint conference (with BISA and CSTPV) at Bradford University (17/18 October) and a panel at C-SAP 2009 Conference, (25-27 November).

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