Article
Written by Student Rights on 21 May 2013 at 8pm

Safe Campus Communities website welcomed by Student Rights

The issue of campus extremism is one which polarises debate, and government attempts to challenge it through the Prevent Strategy have seen criticism from students and higher education institutions.

This has hampered effectiveness, but it does appear that universities are aware of the need to engage with the programme, with around two-thirds of institutions surveyed in 2010 confirming that they had worked with it.

Yesterday saw the launch of a new website, www.safecampuscommunities.ac.uk, which aims to provide guidance on a number of topics including external speaker protocols, effective community and police engagement, and inter-faith relations on campus.

Based on a policy of open information sharing, the website’s resources include case studies and guidelines from groups such as Universities UK and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

The creation of such a forum should be welcomed by those working in this area, and here at Student Rights we feel that such policy is crucial in tackling what is an extremely complex issue.

In our 2012 report ‘Challenging Extremists: Practical Frameworks for our Universities’ we recommended data-sharing should be encouraged “to develop experience-led best practice”.

We also highlighted the importance of sharing experiences of dealing with extreme speakers between institutions, which the case studies provided on the website go some way towards doing.

With many students feeling that Prevent targets Muslims unfairly, and accusations of Islamophobia levelled at those working in this area, it is clear that there needs to be a detoxification of the Prevent agenda.

Calls made for an evidence-based debate have no weight however when any evidence provided is dismissed as ‘demonising’ students, and it is clear that finding a solution will be a slow process.

Inaccurate perceptions can and should be challenged, as should problems with policy itself, with the ultimate aim of making our campuses a safer and more welcoming place for all students something that we can all work towards.

With this in mind, we are keen for students to contact us to discuss this, as we hope to begin a new project soon on how Prevent is viewed on campus and what can be done to change those views.

Ultimately, the more open and transparent the discussion surrounding campus extremism is, the more successful attempts at engagement will be, and this website appears to be the first step towards that.