After a Freedom of Information request to a number of universities for correspondence to, from, or about the ‘anti-extremism’ group Student Rights, it has emerged that at least some university staff, like students involved in the Real Student Rights campaign, doubt the validity of the Henry Jackson Society group’s research.
Particularly telling is one email released under FOI by Kingston University, where students last week passed a motion condemning Student Rights. Although the names have been redacted, the email (composed after a Student Rights report named Kingston as one campus where supposed ‘extremism’ existed) was sent to two members of the university’s senior management team (SMT) . In it, an unnamed staff member observed:
It’s not exactly a rigorous piece of academic research!
It appears to consist of looking at a few Twitter and Facebook accounts in the Kingston case this was someone who ‘liked’ or ‘shared’ a few articles that looked as the Islamic approach to economics and other subjects with a very tenuous link to Hitzbut Tahrir.
This suggests that not only students but some staff too are highly skeptical of Student Rights research. Monitoring the social media pages of certain student groups and societies is not illegal, but it arguably does tell us something about how reliable – or otherwise – the evidence base is for the conclusions drawn by Student Rights.