In today’s Grauniad, a very pleasant letter has been published:
Boycott these checks on students
Tuesday 14 April 2009
As academics involved in research on the uses and abuses of state power, it is becoming increasingly apparent that members of staff in universities and colleges are being drawn into a role of policing immigration (Universities weigh up new fraud unit to thwart bogus applications, 11 April). For example, academic and administrative staff are being asked to monitor the attendance of students at lectures and classes (whether compulsory or not), and we are being asked to check the ID of students and colleagues, while external examiners and visiting lecturers are also now being asked to provide passport details.
We strongly oppose the imposition of such changes in the way that academic institutions are run. We believe these practices are discriminatory and distort academic freedoms. The implementation of UK immigration policies is not part of our contractual duties and we will play no part in practices which discriminate against students and staff in this way. We support our administrative colleagues in their refusal to engage in such practices. Thus we pledge to refuse to co-operate with university requests for us to provide details on our students or participate in investigations of those students.
As a first, and highly practical, step, we pledge not to supply any personal details – such as passport or driving licence details – in our role as external examiners, and urge all of our colleagues across higher and further education to join this boycott. We will also forward motions to our respective union branches in support of this position. A boycott would undermine immediately the system of external examining at all levels, which operates almost exclusively on the basis of goodwill, and thus strike a significant blow against both the pernicious drift of government policy, and university managements’ acquiescence to this.
Dr Elizabeth Capewell
Professor Ben Bowling
Professor Penny Green
Professor Gerry Johnstone
Professor Scott Poynting
Dr Anandi Ramamurthy
Professor Phil Scraton
Professor Joe Sim
Professor Steve Tombs
and 28 others
In The Devil’s Home on Leave by Derek Raymond (aka Robin Cook), published in 1986, the main character, a detective sergeant, refers at one point to a proposed police special powers bill. Noting it would allow police to detain a person for seven days without access to a lawyer, he says: “If it ever passed on to the statute book we [the police] would effectively be released from any serious accountability to the public.” He adds: “I could stop and arrest a man on the street simply because I didn’t like the look on his face, or the way his pockets bulged.” He notes that the bill had been rejected (did it exist?), but he predicts that it would be back, “perhaps in a different form, perhaps looking more innocuous – not tomorrow, possibly not even the day after, but doubtless the day after that” … and he was right.
At last, the people with some backbone and brains are saying, “No”.
Like we keep saying, all it takes is for everyone to stop obeying; in this case, the ‘Academics’ are going to stop obeying and get on with minding their own business, which is the business of being an Academic.
If what the government is doing is really evil, and it is, then ALL professionals should take the same stance, and make the following pledge:
There is a broad consensus that the potential for abuse of human rights is massive with ID cards.
Whilst governments may be able to issue them, it is businesses and the professionals that run them who will be the main interface administering their use and pushing their widespread adoption.
We all have a moral responsibility to protect the welfare of others by refraining from doing evil ourselves.
We therefore call upon all members of Facebook, LinkedIn and all other professional networks to sign this pledge that they will not integrate ID Card requirements into their interactions with their clients, colleagues or customers.
For generations man has succeeded brilliantly without ID Cards in every sphere of life. We actively reject the mistaken ideas, claims and outright falsehoods made by the governments that want to introduce ID Cards, and we commit ourselves to reinforcing normal, moral interactions with our clients, customers and colleagues.
We actively reject the ‘Zero Trust Society’ that governments are trying to create through ID Cards.
We pledge that:
We will not require ID to provide our services.
We will choose professionals and service providers that have taken this pledge over those that have not.
We will not cooperate with any mandate that requires us to identify our clients, colleagues or customers.
When you take payment for a service, you pledge that you will not ask for ID. Your client or customer should not have to produce a document in order to buy products or receive services from you.
The guiding principle here is not that our clients, colleagues or customers need to prove that, “they are who they say they are”, but that, “I am who I say I am” is good enough as long as they pay you.
If you are offering a hotel room, and the person hiring the room pays with a credit card or cash, there is no need for any other information; you are in the business of renting hotel rooms, not collecting information about your clients on behalf of governments.
Any form that you print that you require your clients, colleagues or customers to fill out should not contain fields for ID card numbers, passport numbers or any other number from an ID document.
If we all refuse to interface with the ID Cards they will be of little use to anyone, and will eventually be abandoned. If however we integrate them into our systems and processes, they will become indispensable and the Zero Trust Society will come into being.
Think of this pledge as a Hippocratic Oath for the 21st Century.
Spread it far and wide!
And now we have a new policy example; Academics refusing to demand ID before they teach, enroll or interact with students. Each professional body can come up with its own scenario and policy example; the most important thing is that everyone has a policy, and that that policy is to reject the Zero Trust Society and all the apparatus that enables it. Everyone everywhere must avoid doing the administrative work of the police state, and they must shun anyone that does do that nasty work.
Do you know someone who needs to read this pledge?