Written by Student Rights on 3 May 2013 at 2pm

MP highlights Student Union challenge to University over 'offensive' speakers

An event at Middlesex University highlighted by Student Rights in February has been raised in the House of Commons by the local MP for Hendon.

Dr Matthew Offord’s statement from the 25th April exposes the problems that arise from unbalanced platforms, and shows the difficulties faced by universities that attempt to challenge extremism on campus.

Featuring Asghar Bukhari, the founder of MPACUK, the event on 1st February was titled ‘The Case for Boycotting, Divesting, and Sanctions against Israel’, and was restricted to Middlesex students and staff.

Given Bukhari and fellow speaker Lauren Booth’s previous comments about Israel, the fact that no platform was provided to counter their narrative is concerning.

However, it is Dr Offord’s claim of what he was told on contacting the University which is more worrying. Dr Offord states that:

A recent meeting was held at Middlesex University in which three speakers variously said that Israelis support the death of Palestinians, glorify in Palestinian deaths and loot the bodies of dead Palestinians.

When I wrote to the vice-chancellor of Middlesex University about the anguish that such unfounded comments cause local residents, he advised that when he had intervened in the past about radical and offensive speakers, the student union had complained to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and the university was fined and reprimanded.

May we therefore have a debate on anti-Semitism on university campuses and how we can prevent such occurrences?

Whilst the Office of the Independent Adjudicator does not in fact have the power to fine universities, the fact that a Student Union is working against its university’s attempts to regulate extremist speakers should not be ignored.

Student Unions have as much of a duty of care to their students as universities do, and should be taking this into account when extremist or intolerant speakers are invited onto campus rather than making the university’s already difficult job harder.