On Thursday 1st December, Elliot Miller, National Organiser at Student Rights, gave a workshop on challenging extremism on campuses to around 40 students at University College London (UCL).
The hour-long session involved a presentation examining the varied forms of extreme or intolerant speakers and groups invited onto campuses, and a lengthy question and answer session.
Some of the questions that came up during the Q&A included how far someone’s views and statements can go before limiting their freedom of expression could be justified, and whether ‘No Platform’ policies can ever be acceptable.
Another student pointed out that the boundaries between someone’s freedom of religion and their infringement on an individual’s rights can potentially be a very fine line.
Many of the students present were concerned about the NUS’ ‘Challenging Prevent’ event held at UCL the evening before, and wanted to hear more about the arguments in favour of the Prevent strategy.
One thing is clear from events such as this – when it comes to combatting extremism on campus, students are key to challenging extremist narratives, and it is vitally important they have the information they need to do this effectively.
Miller and the workshop participants discussed how to accurately identify the risks posed by extremist speakers by using evidence of actions or quotes from credible sources, ensuring concerns can be substantiated and do not exaggerate the issue.
They also examined what views should be of most concern, including apologising for acts of terrorism, supporting or excusing the killing of British military personnel and any incitement to or support for violence.
While the internet has given those who seek to radicalise and recruit vulnerable people a useful tool, it was also highlighted that the posting of content on social media including YouTube has made it easier to research potential extremist speakers.
Providing students with a better understanding of how extremists seek to target the higher education sector is crucial if they are to go along to future events, ask questions, and create more balanced platforms and debate.
Here at Student Rights, we are looking to increase the number of events we address on-campus to help do this.
If you are keen to learn more about the problems posed by extremism and how you can work to challenge it, please get in touch.