Extreme or Intolerant Speakers on London Campuses between September 2015 and January 2016
A new briefing by Student Rights, 'Extreme or Intolerant Speakers on London Campuses between September 2015 and January 2016', examines the number of events featuring speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views or a history of involvement with extremist organisations logged across London in the first four months of the 2015-16 academic year.
Managing extreme speakers was highlighted by the government as part of a new statutory duty for universities to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism, with institutions expected to have “procedures in place for the management of events on campus”.
Despite this, Student Rights logged 30 events between 21 September 2015 and 31 January 2016, all but three of which are believed to have gone ahead as planned, and only six of which appear to have attempted to provide any kind of balance.
These events included speakers who have referred to homosexuality as “wretched”, “shameful”, and “disgusting”, spread divisive rhetoric suggesting there is a war against Muslims, and defended convicted terrorists or expressed support for proscribed terrorist groups.
Nine more events than logged during the same period in 2014-15, these findings highlight that despite the new legal duty facing universities, too many institutions are still allowing events featuring such speakers to go ahead without ensuring adequate challenge.
With universities currently submitting the policies and procedures required to demonstrate compliance with the Prevent duty on external speakers to the Higher Education Funding Council, it is clear things are moving slowly in the right direction.
The small increase in events which saw some form of balance on the panel also suggests that this is the case.
Institutions must now ensure these policies guarantee events which feature speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views provide students with an opportunity to hear balanced debates rather than misleading information.
Rupert Sutton, Director of Student Rights said:
“Given the history of campus radicalisation that exists in the UK, with yet another student convicted of terror offences last week, university action has not been good enough.
While it is important universities protect freedom of expression, it is not enough to state after receiving criticism for allowing unbalanced events to go ahead that no laws were broken on-campus.
Institutions must ensure at minimum that any extreme speakers invited onto campus face balanced platforms and robust challenge.”