Muslims & LGBTQ students jointly reject ‘Student Rights’

A statement issued jointly by the Islamic Society and LGBT Network of Nottingham University has rejected ‘Student Rights’ and others who seek to stir up antagonism and create a divisive atmosphere on campus.

Read about it in Huffington Post here.

Read about it in Impact, the student newspaper at Nottingham uni, here.

Read the original statement here.



REVEALED: Freedom of Information requests show Student Rights private correspondence with universities

Real Student Rights is publishing a series of excerpts from correspondence between the Henry Jackson Society group ‘Student Rights’ and various universities obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

A quick round up of the first few interesting pieces of information they expose:

1. Student Rights tried to get one university to pass on details of a student event – read more here.

2. Student Rights encouraged a university to cancel a week long series of events critiquing the ‘war on terror’ for ‘fuelling grievances against the West’ – read more here.

3. ‘Not exactly a rigorous piece of academic research’ – the verdict of one university staff member on Student Rights research revealed – read more here.

4. Despite recently admitting to being a project of the Henry Jackson Society, Student Rights previously described itself in emails to universities as ‘independent’ – read more here.

‘Not exactly a rigorous piece of academic research’ – university staff member’s verdict on Student Rights report

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.

Email shows Student Rights tried to get uni to pass on details of student event

A private email (PDF) sent by Student Rights to Queen Mary, University of London, and released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the ‘anti-extremism’ organisation tried to get the university to pass on details of a student event.

In October 2012, Student Rights researcher Rupert Sutton wrote to the university about the event, for which the speakers were not yet announced, stating:

I was hoping that, in line with the university’s requirements, the society might have informed the university who the speakers would be,
and that you would be able to pass on that information.

As far as the emails released under the FOI Act show, the university did not respond to Student Rights request to pass on any information, which Sutton justified by saying that the society had in the past hosted speakers from Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir. Though the unnamed speakers that Student Rights suspected were likely Muslim, the event was not organised by the Islamic Society, but a group called the ‘Ideological Society’.

FOI shows Student Rights sought to stop events for ‘fuelling grievances against the West’

An email from Student Rights to Queen Mary (PDF), University of London, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that Student Rights sought to have a week-long series of events critiquing the ‘war on terror’ cancelled. The ‘anti-extremism’ group pressured the university to stop the entire programme of talks on what seem to be highly spurious grounds.

The most revealing paragraph is at the end, where Student Rights researcher Rupert Sutton writes:

Here at Student Rights we would urge the university to reconsider their decision to allow this week to go ahead. Whilst discussing and criticising the legal issues associated with War on Terror should not be a topic which students cannot discuss, this event does not seek to do that. Instead, it seeks to inflame anger by fuelling grievances against the West and its response to those who would attack it. This has nothing to do with justice and will only serve to provoke hatred and division on our campuses.

What seems clear from this suggestion is that, on the basis of incredibly broad and sweeping generalisations about a whole series of different student-organised events on campus, Student Rights sets itself up as the arbiter of what is acceptable for students to say and hear and while paying lip service to freedom of speech, seems to have little respect for it in practice.

Kingston students become fifth to officially condemn ‘Student Rights’ group

Kingston university students passed a motion against the Henry Jackson Society front group ‘Student Rights’ last night at their annual ‘Big Student Meeting’.

The SU becomes the fifth in the country to formally condemn the activities of the group, following motions at four University of London institutions: LSE, Goldsmiths, UCL and Birkbeck.

Students at the meeting who support the ‘Real Student Rights’ campaign said the Vice Chancellor of the university was also in attendance and witnessed students vote unanimously in favour of the motion.

The agenda of the meeting is here and the motion itself here. This post will be updated with a link showing that it has passed into policy at KUSU as soon as it becomes available.

For now congratulations to Kingston students for becoming part of the fightback against the ironically named ‘Student Rights’ group, which has whipped up a fair amount of sensationalist media coverage about the university and won’t like being given a taste of its own medicine.

*UPDATE 3/3/2014: Link to meeting minutes showing the motion passed unopposed*

Open letter to ‘Student Rights’ outlines “fervent opposition” of LSE Students’ Union

**UPDATE** Mohamed Harrath blogs for Huffington Post on LSE’s open letter to Student Rights – read it here.

The London School of Economics (LSE) Students Union has published an open letter addressed to Mr Raheem Kassam, director of the Henry Jackson Society’s ‘Student Rights’ project.

It declares that LSE SU views Student Rights’ “disproportionate preoccupation with Muslim students to be sensationalist, divisive and counter-productive” and has “therefore instituted a no-engagement policy” with the organisation.

Based on its “track record in fuelling press hostility against Muslim students” the letter states the students union’s belief that ‘Student Rights’ “role in debates around campus” contributes to “the demonisation and marginalisation of Muslim students” and further cites its “lack of transparency and lack of student input” as reinforcing its stance.

Ending by reitering its “fervent opposition” to Student Rights activities, and resolving instead to endeavour to build more cohesive and inclusive campuses, the letter follows a motion to support ‘Real Student Rights’ passed last term at LSE and since then at three other universities: Goldsmiths, Birkbeck and most recently at University College London (UCL).