Blogconfidential: Room 101 here we come

Each week, Dr Margot Feelbetter poses a dilemma and offers advice for readers to respond to online. This week: Room 101 here we come

October 14, 2010

My concern involves a Saudi Arabian student who is studying in our department. This student is a postgraduate, one of the most conscientious individuals I have known, and is popular and has many friends. However, my academic lead keeps asking me questions about this student. Do they appear radical? What societies or groups have they joined? Where do they live?

My patience finally wore thin and I confronted my academic lead, asking him directly: "Are you trying to find out about this student because they are a security risk?" This took him by surprise and he visibly flushed and then he said without thinking: "Oh, I need to come back to you on that one".

I honestly think that he has to go away to tell some sort of contact that he has been rumbled and to then work out whether I need to be in the loop about some security concerns about this student.

He's a wimp of a manager - underconfident, apolitical and strategic for his own ends. If he comes back to me and says that I need to be included in some anti-terrorist pact with senior managers I am going to tell them to take a running jump. I was against the Iraq War and I most certainly AM NOT A SPY.

You seem to be making all sorts of assumptions about something that may never happen. But what if your academic lead does come back to you with compelling evidence or concerns about any student - do you have the right to refuse to cooperate?

I too was against the war in Iraq and I find the whole "Blair Journey" thing abhorrent. This said, can you really abdicate responsibility so easily? It is a fine line between political correctness and genuinely looking at what may be on the table about this student. As a citizen of this country you must hold true to your beliefs but security issues should and must supersede your own political posturing.

I realise that the historical context of the invasion, the mistakes made by the previous government and the whitewash of successive reports and inquiries need a totally independent critical view - which may never happen. However, you cannot put this current situation to bed simply because it does not fit with your broad social views.

Readers may take a very different stance and challenge me on this, but my suggestion is to hold out, to see what comes up and then consider the evidence. If this idea does not match up to your purest views as an objective and autonomous teacher then you may need to look at your options. The process of redundancies will begin soon enough and I think we all know that the "complainers" or "lounge lizards" will be first on the list. Does this prospect make your politics more flexible?

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