I’d love to write a long critique of the media coverage of this terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam on Christmas Day, but alas, I think it would probably take me the rest of the day and I have an essay to work on. Instead, some short thoughts will have to suffice.
Understandably, the British media are focussing on the perpetrator’s time in the UK, in London to be precise and the changes Britain is making to its airport security. What I don’t understand is the efforts of some (the Telegraph, basically) to appear to lay the blame squarely at UCL’s door.
This shown best in this Telegraph article. At the time of writing, some of the later comments have the right idea, but the article appears to suggest that UCL should monitor the activities of those that attend it. At first pass, that sort of seems reasonable, drawing parallels with a school or other welfare oriented organisation. And then you realise (or don’t in the case of the Telegraph), that isn’t the purpose of Universities. They exist to teach adults advanced concepts without the nannying or fussing of a school.
This sentiment is put perfectly by a comment by Ross Anderson on the above article:
we have neither the skills nor the management structures needed [for monitoring students]. Monitoring troublemakers is the special branch’s job (whatever it’s called this week) just as putting out fires is the fire brigade’s job.
This something I totally agree with: why isn’t more blame (or at least scrutiny) being given to both our security services and there American counterparts. I’ve travelled the US recently and they ask for a lot of data before you even get to the airport, so it does beg the question: what are they doing with that information?
Other recent Telegraph articles inciting a backlash against universities are here and here. The first one, and perhaps the most outrageous; accusing UCL of being “complicit” in the attacks is here.
Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL had his say in the THE, a brilliant article which I wish more people would read.