Last week, Student Rights’ National Organiser, Elliot Miller, gave on-campus presentations in Exeter and Leeds focusing on challenging extremism and opening up debate on the Prevent duty.
On 23rd November, Miller gave a presentation focused on the myths and realities of the Prevent duty at the University of Exeter Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society (AHS).
This examined many of the complaints from students about Prevent, sought to debunk the misunderstandings, and addressed the concerns of movements such as ‘Students Not Suspects’.
Following the event, Hannah Timson, President of Exeter AHS, said:
“We were pleased to invite Elliot to talk about the nature of Prevent and counter-extremist strategies on campus. The talk was well-informed and balanced and the AHS was very pleased to note that the speaker was open to answer and listen to criticisms from members of a varied audience about a topic that could be viewed as controversial.”
Meanwhile, third-year student, Thomas Collins, who attended the event said “it was good to hear about what students can do to tackle extremism at their universities.”
Here at Student Rights, we are committed to discussion when it comes to issues that may be sensitive and controversial, and believe that everyone has a right to take part in fair and balanced debate.
There were a number of students at the event who did not support Prevent or the work of Student Rights, and attendees were able to have a constructive debate during the Q&A session.
This included debating whether Prevent aims to close down pro-Palestinian activism on campus, something which is not mentioned in the strategy and for which there is no evidence, and addressing false claims Prevent is a tool of state-sponsored Islamophobia.
That these discussions took place show the importance of hosting events where people are presented with a balanced view rather than the echo chambers which we see all too frequently during anti-Prevent events on campuses.
Exeter AHS Society worked hard to ensure the talk was held in an atmosphere conducive to real discussion, and should be congratulated for this.
Following this event, on 27th November Miller gave a small workshop on challenging extremism on campuses at the University of Leeds.
Conversations focused on groups including the neo-Nazi National Action movement, which seeks to target universities with racist material.
The group also discussed Islamist groups, as well as organisations such as CAGE which campaign on behalf of convicted terrorists and work to undermine Prevent.
Most of the students believed extremist speakers were not a serious issue at the University of Leeds and that campus tensions were relatively low.
However, they did express interest in making sure any future events featuring such speakers were met with an effective response in terms of raising concerns with the relevant authorities at the university.
Here at Student Rights, we are looking to increase the number of events we address on-campus this year, so if you are keen to learn more about Prevent or the problems posed by extremism on campuses, please get in touch.