On Thursday 26 January, Student Rights’ National Organiser, Elliot Miller, gave a presentation to the Atheist, Secular and Humanist Society (AHS) at Durham University, focusing on challenging extremism and the Prevent Duty.
Angelos Sofocleous, President of the Durham AHS, speaking after the event, said it was:
“A very insightful and informative talk. It has definitely been good food for thought for students who wish to support Student Rights in their effort to take extremism out of university campuses, reminding everyone that freedom of speech cannot include hate speech.”
The presentation focused on the realities of the Prevent Duty at universities across the UK and examined many of the myths spread about the strategy on-campus.
The debate continued after the presentation, with questions from the audience covering a range of issues. The audience was particularly interested in debunking misunderstandings of Prevent – especially the concerns raised by the National Union of Students (NUS) backed ‘Students not Suspects’ campaign.
Following this, on Monday 30 January, Elliot gave a workshop on extremism on campus and free speech at the University of Cambridge hosted by students from the Middle East and North Africa Forum.
The workshop participants – all studying different subjects at Cambridge – discussed how to accurately identify the risks posed by extremist speakers using evidence of actions or quotes from credible sources, ensuring concerns can be substantiated and do not exaggerate the issue.
There was an examination of 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 violence.
The group also debated a number of contentious topics, including whether the government should be able to tell universities how they should organise their events, and whether ‘No Platform’ policies should be used to prevent extremist speakers from appearing on campuses.
One particular area of disagreement was on the definition of extremism and whether it was too vague and needed revision.
Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, a student from Hughes Hall who helped organise the meeting, said it was:
“A very important workshop for students on campus battling extremism.
Even for those that are not faced with it every day, as in the case of Cambridge, it is imperative to know that there is someone to turn to if such a thing does appear on campus.
The workshop was delivered really well, engaging and most importantly practically applicable.”
Here at Student Rights, we are looking to increase the number of events we address on campus to help ensure these issues are debated as widely as possible.
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.