A lively debate took place at the UGM yesterday on two motions. The first, to no platform fascists, Holocaust deniers and rape apologists. The second, to unite against Islamophobia and support the Real Student Rights campaign.
The No Platform motion fell, with 172 voting for and 431 voting against and 11 undecided.
The motion against Islamophobia passed, by 347 votes to 118, with 32 undecided.
Thanks to all who took part in the debate and voted online.
My weekly update – and it’s been a busy one, so hold on to your socks.
The Winter Ball was a resounding success, with great attendance and almost half a grand raised for charity. I’m glad everyone had a good time, and I’ll be working hard to make sure that future events are bigger and better – there are some plans already in the pipeline, and I look forward to sharing these with you in good time. Suffice it to say, there is a lot I want to offer postgrad students in terms of careers and keynote debates alongside social events, so if you missed the Ball this time around or fancy something other than a party there’s plenty more to come!
Postgraduate Course Representatives
Last week I met with the course representatives from all Postgrad departments to talk about the possibility of setting up a bi-termly forum to discuss School-wide education issues at LSE.
With a high attendance of course reps, a unanimous vote indicated that everyone was in favour of setting up such a meeting as a method of bringing pressure upon the School to make changes to its currently unaccountable education policies. As such, I am pleased to announce that the Postgraduate Course Representative Congress (PCRC) is now a permanent feature of the relationship between the SU and the postgrad student body.
This is an important step in mobilising students to affect real policy change here at LSE, and will allow students and the SU to speak with one voice on the most important educational matters at the School. We are very much at the beginning of this process, so expect more updates in the future.
On Wednesday, yours truly attended the Academic Board meeting to discuss School-wide education issues. I can happily announce that, due to the efforts of the SU alongside other senior members of the School management, we have secured an ‘Opt-Out’ policy on lecture audio recording.
What this means is that from now on, Departments and individual academics will have to actively opt-out of recording, which will take place unless specified. This is one step closer to universal recording – something that I and the SU as a whole are actively campaigning for – and will allow us to hold to account those academics that chose not to join the rest of us in the 21st Century and allow their lectures to be recorded.
After the flurry of activity this week, I’ll be starting next week to organise events and initiatives for next term and beyond. As mentioned previously, there is a lot more to come, so keep tuned in to my weekly updates and the Newsletter!
Have a good weekend,
Events for this week:
Date: Friday 6th December
Venue: Shaw Library
Catch a sneak preview of the Christmas Concert performance. Haydn’s Nelson Mass and traditional carols are on the programme.
Soloists: Soprano - Emily Le Roux-Rutledge, Alto - Amelia Thomson, Tenor - Knut Ulsrud, Bass - Jasper Heeks
Contact email: email@example.com
Date: Monday 9th December
Venue: Shaw Library
The Houghtones and RAG are hosting their very first Christmas Concert, so please come and join the festivities! Think Christmas carols, mince pies, tinsel, the lot!
We will have special guests joining us, so watch this space!
Tickets will be £2 and Christmas refreshment will be available at a very reasonable price, with all the proceeds going towards RAG!
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Thursday 12th December
Venue: 32L LG04
The Origins of the Classical-Popular Music Schism: London concerts and their audiences in the 18th and 19th centuries
Simon McVeigh, Professor of Music at Goldsmiths University of London will talk on this interesting topic.
Illustrated with a range of recordings and depictions of musical events, the talk will address the social and economic factors in London’s concert life that laid down the basis for our musical structures today.
Contact email: email@example.com
Everyone is welcome to attend our Mature & Part-Time Meet and Greet at 10am this Friday!
Hi Research Students,
I am very happy to inform you that two Postgraduate Research Students have been selected to be co-editors of the postgraduate student journal ‘The Graduate’.
We are now looking for research students to be part of the editorial committee and submissions for the first edition of the journal on the theme of power. Check out the website to find out more.
Common room for Postgraduate Research students
Don’t forget that there’s a common room just for Research students on the second floor of the East Building – great place to chill out with a mince pie! The code is C789XZ.
There’s also a Postgraduate common room in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, LG.05A, with kitchen area & comfy chairs - great for catching up with friends and group study.
Improving conditions for Research students
The Research Student Consultative Forum met this week to discuss pertinent PhD issues involving work spaces for PhD students. These discussions have illuminated some questions we need to discuss to improve our education.
Some of the key issues that departmental PhD representatives discussed were:
- The need to create cross departmental job postings for GTAs
- Improving communication between LSE with PhD students (e.g. clarifying the rules for late submission with the Research Degrees Unit)
- Discussing the results of the 2013 Postgraduate Research Experience Survey at the LSE
I am currently clarifying information on how to present potential solutions to the above (see next week’s email).
I would love to speak with you to see how these results compare with your experience, and what we can do to improve your time at LSE.
If you would like to get in touch, the best place to start is by replying to my blog post or by emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, join me at Delauney’s on Thursday, 12 December between 2pm and 4pm to discuss these issues with other PhD students.
For those of you heading back home next week, I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.
By Mohamed Harrath and Rayhan Uddin
At a time when hate crimes against Muslims are rapidly rising in the capital (up 92.3% in the year to August 2013 according to the Metropolitan Police), the second annual Islamophobia Awareness Month, happening this November, could not have come at more apt a time. Whilst events and exhibitions held on campuses across the country to raise awareness about this pernicious form of prejudice are crucial, what is most important at a time like this is that students of all backgrounds stand alongside their Muslim classmates to say that hatred, prejudice, and bigotry are unacceptable and ought to be challenged. That is why we are proposing a motion at this week’s UGM urging students to say no to Islamophobia, especially when directed at Muslim students.
How the ‘campus extremism’ debate fuels Islamophobia
At a recent conference on campus extremism at the LSE, featuring experts on the issues of extremism, freedom and security, there was a consensus view amongst the speakers that the debate on campus extremism has been exaggerated and distorted creating a climate where Muslim students are increasingly demonised. Indeed, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, has consistently sought to redress this misconception by explaining that there is no evidence of a link between “student radicals” and violent extremism, a view endorsed by the Home Affairs select committee report on ‘The Roots of Violent Radicalisation’. So why all the hysteria?
In his book, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, Nathan Lean argues that “the tide of Islamophobia that is sweeping through Europe and the United States is not a naturally occurring phenomenon”, he insists it is the “design” of a network of anti-Muslim bloggers, politicians, pundits and religious leaders who have been all too successful in whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment with all its devastating consequences.
Organisations such as Student Rights, a supposedly ‘non-partisan’ group, yet which has strong links to the hard-right Henry Jackson Society, an organisation who’s senior staff features Douglas Murray, who infamously argued that “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder,” has continuously sought to inflate fears of campus extremism. This injurious campaign has had a detrimental impact on the welfare of Muslim students by feeding into a climate that increasingly demonises them. In turn, this has contributed to a climate of suspicion surrounding Britain’s 100,000 Muslim students, who nonetheless work tirelessly to build more inclusive and accepting educational environments.
(For example, Student Rights has been instrumental in motivating far-right groups, including the notorious English Defence League, in their efforts to intimidate Muslim students at campus events in Essex, Nottingham, Reading and other towns and cities across the country.)
It’s also worth noting that the organisation has zero input from actual students, and further diminishing credibility in face of the growing calls for the organisation to cease its activities.
Liam Burns, former President of the National Union of Students, was right to express his concerns about Student Rights and condemn the organisation’s tactics in seeking to divide students at a recent meeting in the House of Lords, a sentiment I know is shared by many students’ union leaders up and down the country, including our sabbs here at LSE.
If Student Rights wants to play a positive role in contributing to more inclusive and cohesive campuses, they ought to have a radical rethink of their approach to questions on faith, the public square and campus life. But until then, organisations that serve to inflame Islamophobia on our campuses ought to be made aware that students, regardless of their political leanings, will not sit idle whilst a hostile campaign of intimidation and bullying is waged on some of the more vulnerable in their number.
Muslim student contribution
Muslim students contribute immensely to their campuses and are an integral part of our national fabric. The annual ‘charity week’ has raised a total of £2.4m since its inception in 2004. Not bad for a bunch of students living on shoestring budgets. Or there is the Islamic Society at Oxford University which organised the ground breaking ‘Rethinking Islamic Reform’ conference in 2010, demonstrating the leadership of Muslim students in grappling with the big questions of faith, politics, identity and citizenship. And even on the question of campus extremism, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) held a conference with leading experts and stakeholders in 2011 and supported another one organised by the LSE Students’ Union this year. Who can say then that Muslim students do not play a key role in enriching university life and building inclusive campuses?
The problems faced by Muslim students met with an often indifferent and silent mainstream, the problem is only becoming exacerbated. The increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain has had disastrous consequences for the inclusion of Muslim students in civic society. It’s time we took a stand against hate and bigotry and put an end to the demonisation of Muslims on our campuses.
Here is the full version of the motion we are proposing at this Thursday’s UGM.
An incident occurred on Thursday afternoon at the LSESU LGBT Alliance’s stall on Houghton Street. Remarks were made to members of the LGBT Alliance that were deemed homophobic, violent and intimidating. LSESU and the School want to reiterate that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour of any kind will not be tolerated. We fully support the LGBT community at LSE and want to ensure that our campus remains an open and respectful environment. The Union and the School are thoroughly investigating the incident. Should you have any concerns, please email Matt White, the LSESU LGBT Officer (email@example.com) or Peter Howlett, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Professor Paul Kelly Anneessa Mahmood
Pro-Director for Teaching and Learning Community and Welfare Officer
Maddy Kirkman, from NUS Disabled Students’ Committee, blogs on ‘coming out as disabled’.
Read the original version of this blog on the NUS website and find more info from gov.uk.
The International Day of Disabled People is a difficult thing to get right. Disability in the public mind is so often focused on the headline welfare cuts, or else on the kind of inspiration porn that makes a lot of us feel uneasy. But the day does have a purpose, and it’s all about community and confidence.
I have always been comfortable with the concept of disability. Perhaps this is because I lost my sight when I was old enough to understand that it was a loss. Perhaps it’s because my parents are the kind of educated working class parents who talk bluntly round the dinner table and never wrapped me in cotton wool. I think it might also have been my involvement in disability sport as well; it’s hard to captain a swim team of people with a dizzying variety of disabilities and not see yourself as one of them.
LSESU says no to Islamophobia and calls for Real Student Rights
Debate this motion on Thursday 5th December, 1 - 2pm in the Old Theatre, Old Building, then vote online at lsesu.com/vote
Proposer: Mohamed Harrath
Seconder: Rayhan Uddin
This Union Notes:
1. That November is Islamophobia Awareness Month in the UK.
2. That Student Rights is an organisation claiming to support ‘freedom from extremism’ on UK university campuses and mostly criticises speakers it sees as ‘extremists’ who have been invited by Islamic societies but has in the past expressed opposition to student union ‘no-platform’ policy for the BNP.
3. That Student Rights’ most recent report on gender segregation, focusing on Islamic society events, failed in almost every case to determine whether segregation was enforced or voluntary and presented the phenomenon as ‘part of a wider, discriminatory trend’ on campuses which resulted in headlines in the mainstream media associating gender segregation with ‘extremism’.
4. That Student Rights is not transparent about its origins or funding but has never refuted allegations in the press that it is ‘a side project of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society’, a think tank whose associate director, Douglas Murray, has argued that ‘conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board’. Nor has it ever challenged reports that it receives funding from the Henry Jackson Society.
5. That the Institute of Race Relations has noted with concern, that Student Rights’ work and reporting has been used by far-right groups to target a Muslim-student event which led to reported threats of violence and the event subsequently having to be cancelled by the university.
6. That Student Rights was established in 2009 as a reaction to what it calls ‘increasing political extremism’ on campus – which director Raheem Kassam is reported to have said is a reference to a wave of peaceful occupations that took place on UK campuses to protest Israel’s bombing of Gaza in Operation Cast Lead.
This Union Believes:
7. That Student Rights activities fuel Islamophobia, by disproportionately and unfairly targeting Muslim students, contributing to their marginalisation and ostracisation, damaging campus cohesion and feeding into a growing trend of Islamophobic discourse in wider society which should always be challenged, particularly in Islamophobia Awareness Month.
8. That the claims Student Rights makes to the press are too often been sensationalist, misleading and lacking in nuance, designed to grab headlines about so-called ‘extremism’ on campus, regardless of the impact on students.
9. That whether intentional or not, it is deeply damaging that Student Rights’ approach – which bypasses students themselves - should lead to a situation in which far-right groups come onto a campus, creating a climate in which students feel persecuted and threatened and potentially endangering students’ welfare.
10. That NUS VP Welfare 2012-13, Pete Mercer, was right to condemn Student Rights’ approach as a ‘witch-hunt’ and NUS Black Students Officer 2013-14 Aaron Kiely is right to support the grassroots student campaign ‘Real Student Rights’ which aims to expose and discredit Student Rights.
11. That Student Rights legitimacy is questionable given its limited or non-existent links to actual students, inconsistency on the issue of no-platform policies, creation as a reaction to peaceful pro-Palestinian activism, lack of transparency about its origins and funding, and in particular its alleged links to the Henry Jackson Society, the think tank which employs Douglas Murray, widely criticised for making comments perceived as Islamophobic.
12. That it is not the place of any external organisation – particularly one as non-transparent and dubiously connected as Student Rights - to undermine the Student Union’s autonomy or interfere with co-operation between the union and university in their work to ensure that pre-existing guidelines regarding external speakers are followed.
This Union Resolves:
13. To mandate SU officers to release a public statement/open letter addressed to Student Rights criticising their lack of transparency, sensationalism, divisive and counter-productive activities and disproportionate preoccupation with Muslim students and calling on them to drastically change their approach and mentality.
14. To circulate the ‘Real Student Rights’ petition via email / social media.
15. To write to the university management, making explicit their concerns about the group Student Rights, and the effect that their activities have on students welfare, campus cohesion and on freedom of speech on campus as well as re-iterating the union’s desire to maintain its autonomy in determining guidelines on external speakers without outside interference.
16. To maintain ongoing communication and for a mandated officer(s) to report back to the SU on any developments including asking the university to inform the SU of any attempts by Student Rights to lobby them regarding any student groups’ activities.
 - http://casualsunited.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/he-reckons-does-he-i-think-this-retreat-is-gonna-run-into-a-few-problems-edl-casualsunited/
 - http://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR490014.aspx
eTwo motions will be debated at the Union General Meeting this Thursday 5th December, 1 - 2pm in the Old Theatre, Old Building.
Proposer: Natalie Nunn
Seconder: Helen Schofield
Proposer: Mohamed Harrath
Seconder: Rayhan Uddin
A vote on these motions will then take place online at lsesu.com/vote
Last week’s PhD Café kick off was a success, with about 30 research students coming to the Fleet River Café over the course of the afternoon.
Two events that the Students’ Union was co-organizing for Research students for next Tuesday has been cancelled because of the Teacher’s Strike. The first was a networking event with the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC), and the second was a ‘smart app’ debate with the Centre for Learning Technologies (CLT). We will re-schedule these events for next year, and will try to organize another informal gathering for Research students on Friday, 6 December.
In the meantime, Happy Friday!
PS - have you got your tickets for the Postgrad winter ball yet?
Research Students’ Officer