Three 19-year-old students have threatened to sue their college, claiming they were suspended during their exams for raising awareness about Islamophobia.
Tahyba Ahmed, Sumayyah Ashraf and Humayra Tasnim, dubbed the "NewVic3", were suspended from NewVic College in Newnham, East London, for "an alleged misuse of the college’s communication system", according to college principal Eddie Playfair
The "misuse" took the form of a round robin email, sent by the students to hundreds of staff and fellow students, criticising the cancellation of a talk about Prevent, the government's new anti-terrorism policy. The college cancelled the event, featuring journalist Dilly Hussain, NUS black students’ officer Malia Bouattia and councillor Unmesh Desai, over unspecified concerns about “one of the speakers", says 5Pillars - a Muslim news, opinion and community site.
The students disagreed, and accused the college of dismissing the concerns of Muslim students over the effect the Prevent plan might have on their lives and futures. The three girls were suspended on 22 May after sending around a four page letter, reproaching the college for cancelling the event. The email also set out a list of 12 demands, including that NewVic make a public statement criticising the Prevent strategy and invite groups critical of its implementation to speak at the college.
The girls' lawyers remain adamant that nothing in the college's code of conduct forbade sending round robin emails, and accused the college of trying to silence the girls' concerns under false pretenses. In a statement, the students remained confused and upset over the cause and timing of their suspensions.
“The entire incident has caused us considerable stress and has had a significant impact on us and our families," they said. "Our revision has been significantly interrupted and we no longer feel positive about our examination results. We continue to remain at a loss as to what it is alleged we have done wrong. The allegation against us remains just that, an allegation, but we have felt the full force of a finding of guilt."
NewVic College denies any allegations of censureship or Islamophobia, saying: “These students have been temporarily suspended for an alleged misuse of the college’s communication system, not because of raising issues of Islamophobia.
"We recently held an event, organised with students, to discuss concerns about anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain today and a list of recommendations was produced which we hope to build on. We are always prepared to listen to students’ views which we take very seriously."
Since the students' cases became widely known, many have taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure with NewVic's handling of the case.
The students' suspension will not come into full force until the completion of their courses, and that they will be allowed to return to the college to sit their exams. They said also that they were "anxious to resolve the dispute" but claimed neither the students nor their legal teams had responded to invitations to meet. The students' legal firm denies any such invitation was made.