Last week, Student Rights’ National Organiser, Gray Sergeant, visited universities across the Midlands, meeting up with students from the University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester and the University of Warwick.
On Wednesday evening, Gray spoke at the University of Nottingham Agnostic, Secularist and Humanist (UNASH) about extremism and free speech on campus.
Students at the University of Nottingham are all too aware of the threat campus extremism poses.
Student Rights’ presentation detailed the far-right and Islamist organisations which have attempted to infiltrate universities, and suggested various ways students could go about challenging such groups.
The advice drew on numerous examples of students challenging speakers and organising peaceful protests, including the example of students at the University of Exeter who challenged CAGE Outreach Director, Moazzam Begg, earlier this year.
This was followed by a lengthy Q&A, where students spoke about their experiences of extremist speakers and expressed their concerns about the election of Malia Bouattia as President of the National Union of Students (NUS).
Students were also keen to hear about Student Rights’ work on Prevent. Many of them had attended events on campus on the subject, but only heard one side of the argument.
Some attendees had looked into the issue in more depth and had debunked some of the anti-Prevent myths for themselves, while others wanted to hear the other side of the argument.
Many UNASH members also complained about the university’s failure to notify them when controversial religious speakers have been invited onto campus, despite other societies being notified about speakers UNASH have hosted.
Here at Student Rights, we are not only concerned about any potential double standards facing atheist and secularist societies, but also by the university’s failure to notify students of events featuring extreme and intolerant speakers.
This must happen to ensure extreme narratives are challenged, as without a diverse audience Q&A sessions will simply become echo chambers.
The following day, Gray spoke with students at Leicester and Warwick Universities about working together in the future, and it is clear the mood on campuses is changing.
With the election of Bouattia as NUS President, extremism on campuses is in the spotlight, and it is clear many students are worried about the effects on wider society if it is allowed to proliferate.