“Real Student Rights” campaign exposes Student Rights on Channel 4 news

The Student Rights (SR) group – which describes itself as combatting extremism on campuses –  has been exposed as a front for the right-wing, pro-Israel Henry Jackson Society (HJS) , according to activists.

The group “Real Student Rights” (RSR) has been campaigning against the witchhunt of Muslim students, speakers and pro-Palestinian activists by SR.

They made the claim after a Channel 4 news report revealed that SR works outs of the same office as the HJS. You can watch the report here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuaN7snyHww

RSR issued the following statement on their official website:

“Although Channel 4 used the euphemistic phrase “shares an office with”, and didn’t mention the fact that it has also received funds from the HJS, the fact that it is a project of the right-wing think tank would have been clear to most viewers. Up until Friday, the mainstream media had never mentioned the HJS link to SR.

“Student Rights was also forced to deny claims that it is Islamophobic. This was probably largely thanks to the hard work of all the students involved in the Real Student Rights campaign who have so far successfully passed motions at three universities in the space of two weeks.

“The passage of the RSR motion at LSE was mentioned by Channel 4 and student union president Jay Stoll, when asked if he thought the group was Islamophobic, said “We’ve got to call a spade a spade…and that’s what it is, yes, absolutely.”

“By giving students the chance to air their views and putting these accusations to Student Rights, the Channel 4 reporter Paul Mason produced what was probably the first balanced news report on the controversy generated by SR’s shoddy research to date.

“RSR does not have a position on gender segregation, but views the current public debate, provoked by SR, as at least in part symptomatic of the climate of Islamophobia in Britain today. We will continue to campaign against SR and against Islamophobia, and encourage students to pass the RSR motion at their students unions and sign and circulate the RSR petition.”

HJS and SR

A Huffington Post blog, entitled “Ironically named ‘Student Rights’ group exposed by actual students”, celebrated the success of the RSR campaign so far and underlines why it’s important to continue to oppose SR and Islamophobia on campus. 

It also notes that the only previous admission of SR’s links to HJS was made by Rupert Sutton, SR’s researcher, in the Facebook thread which can be viewed here: (https://realstudentrights.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/lse-su-ahs-4-redacted.png).

Raheem Kassam of Student Rights
Raheem Kassam of Student Rights

The article asserts that Sutton’s response – that SR has “never denied it is a project of HJS” is “totally inadequate”, and hardly a demonstration of transparency or accountability. Arguing that it should not be down to students to point out the affiliations or funding of an organisation operating in the public sphere, it challenges SR to explain:

  • Why, up till now, it has hidden the fact that it is a Henry Jackson Society project from students and the media?
  • Why it has referred to itself here and in emails to universities obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, as “independent”, if it is in fact, in Sutton’s words “a project of the HJS”, receives money from the think tank, and shares its office?
  • Why does it not register with Companies House or the Charity Commission or publish its own financial accounts?

It also asks of the HJS, a think tank ostensibly concerned with foreign policy issues, why it wants a vehicle to monitor UK university campuses, and why set up a non-transparent front group to do so?

Student Rights

Student Rights says it is a non-partisan group dedicated to supporting equality, democracy and freedom from extremism on university campuses.

Its website says:

“We were set up in June 2009 as a reaction to increasing political extremism and marginalisation of vulnerable students on campus…

“A worrying shift in the priorities of Student Unions means that the needs of students are often inadequately addressed.  Student Rights exists to ensure universities value their greatest assets and serves them appropriately – that is to say that prominence is not afforded to extremist individuals, that political action on campuses is proportionate, appropriate and does not detract from the primary function of universities: education.

“Student Rights keeps its ear to the ground for extremism and radicalisation occurring on university campuses, from a range of different groups including but not limited to fascist groups, extreme political parties and Islamist elements on campuses.

“Student Rights has also been effective at exposing foreign funding streams coming in to UK universities with a particular focus on caveats placed upon donations and from what type of governments they emerge from i.e. totalitarian dictatorships etc.”

You can RSR’s motion here: https://realstudentrights.wordpress.com/motion-template/

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