Preaching by extremists and discrimination through segregation has become widespread trend at UK universities equality group claims
Monday 13 May 2013
Preaching by extremists and discrimination through segregation at student events has become a widespread trend at many UK universities, a student equality group claims.
Radical preachers spoke at nearly 200 events at universities including Cardiff and University College London (UCL) over the last year.
Research found that segregated seating for men and women was promoted or implied at more than a quarter of the events, at 21 separate institutions, despite university rules forbidding it.
Student Rights, which was set up to tackle extremism on campuses and carried out the research, said universities were failing to provide students with work and study environments that are free from discrimination and harassment.
In its study of events promoted to students by union-affiliated societies between March 2012 and March 2013, Student Rights found 180 that featured "speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views".
Of these, 46 (25.5%) explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that it would be the case through promotional material or by providing separate contact details for men and women.
Six of the events were subsequently cancelled. Two institutions, UCL and the University of Leicester, have sine announced investigations into the segregated meetings.
Among the events highlighted was a gender-segregated at UCL on March 9, Student Rights said.
A lecture, Islam vs Atheism, was organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), and pitted writer Hamza Tzortzis against Prof Laurence Krauss in a debate.
A policy of segregation was suggested by the IERA in a statement before the event, which said: "As for seating, it is according to when the ticket was booked and gender."
Students raised the issue with UCL, which gave assurances that segregation would not be allowed.
But the sexual segregation policy was enforced at the event, with separate entrances for men and women - although couples were allowed to enter together - and segregated seating.
Organisers' security tried to physically remove members of the audience who would not comply, Student Rights said.
Speaking of its findings, Student Rights said in a statement: "The fact that such a large percentage of the events logged by Student Rights during this time period either explicitly advertised events as segregated by gender or implied that this would be the case underlines claims that events highlighted are not 'isolated incidents', but rather form a part of a wider, discriminatory trend on UK university campuses."
The organisation said that universities were failing in the responsibilities to tackle discrimination, and called for better communication of policies and a closer monitoring of events to ensure that discrimination does not occur.
Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, told the Times that universities needed to do more to end the practice of segregation.
He said: "I am distraught that, in the 21st century, British university campuses can be used to segregate and denigrate women.
"The acceptance of segregation on campuses is a far more serious issue than previously thought."
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