We are students, recent graduates, university employees and members of the public who believe freedom of speech and association on campus and are vitally important. Both have been under threat for some time and in the wake of the Woolwich murder right-wing groups like Student Rights have stepped up efforts to police universities despite the absence of evidence for the alleged problem of ‘extremism’ on campus. In particular politically active Muslim students are being unfairly demonised, stigmatised and intimidated.
We note that Student Rights:
• Is a project of the right-wing and neoconservative think tank Henry Jackson Society whose senior executives have made several Islamophobic statements prompting at least one MP to quit the advisory board of both the HJS and Student Rights. It is not transparent about this link nor how much money it receives from the Henry Jackson Society or any other donors.
• Does not offer a definition of ‘extremism’ but was set up in June 2009 in reaction to what it calls ‘increasing political extremism’, a reference in fact to the wave of peaceful occupations by student activists on UK campuses protesting Israel’s bombing of Gaza.Though it claims to be acting in students’ interests it bypasses students themselves and lobbies SUs and universities to cancel events and ban speakers – frequently Muslim speakers, often engaged in civil liberties campaigns or organising events on issues like Guantanamo Bay or Palestinian human rights.
We believe that Student Rights:
• Has no legitimacy to speak for students, to claim to be ‘protecting’ them, or acting in their interests but is in fact victimizing, harassing and intimidating them, ignoring pre-existing laws and strict university policies proscribing the incitement of violence and hate speech and in effect infringing on freedom of speech and freedom of association.
We call for Student Rights:
• To be treated with a high degree of scepticism by Student Unions and universities who may be lobbied by the group and who should resist calls to cancel events unless there is hard evidence that student safety may be jeopardised.
• To be identified in the media as a project of the Henry Jackson Society and treated with a high degree of scepticism by media outlets who may have stories pitched to them or seek them out for comment in the belief that they are a legitimate voice.
• To end its witchhunt of muslim students and attacks on Palestine activists and come clean about its donors.
More information about the campaign here: realstudentrights.wordpress.com/