Cage quits Sheffield Hallam venue to avoid anti-extremist curbs
University uses Prevent law to drive Cage event off campus
24 March 2016
We noticed that Cage, which campaigns against the War on Terror, was to hold an event called "Stand Up To Racism" at Sheffield Hallam University towards the end of February 2016. We have of course no problem with the subject-matter of the event, but we were concerned about past utterances of some of the proposed speakers. We therefore requested information from the university.
The university appeared to have identified at least one
potential extremist speaker. It obtained a commitment from the students' union
to keep the discussion to the topic, and arranged for an elected union official
to chair the event. Crucially the university also required the union to film
the event "so that we can know exactly what ... speakers say".
In our view, the decision to have the event filmed (at the union's expense) seems a sufficient safeguard, at least in theory. Had the meeting proceeded, we could and would have asked for the film and judged for ourselves.
The university took the view that, given the topic of the meeting, it did not seem appropriate or feasible to require a balancing view. We would broadly agree with that assessment.
The university duly approved the event with the safeguards mentioned. But four days later the event was moved to another venue off-campus: apparently because the university wouldn't approve a change of speakers and because the organisers wanted open admission.
The university's registrar, who handled the matter competently in our view, was understandably displeased by the cancellation, having spent a lot of time on vetting and approving the event. She later reported an unpleasant encounter with two aggressive people from Stand Up To Racism who were distributing publicity saying the event was taking place in the university despite its having been moved off campus; this incident may have given her a useful insight into the tactics of the extremist Left.
We have seen evidence that not every university, and not
every university administrator, has a proper grip on the Prevent requirements. However, our research indicates that at least
this particular official at Sheffield Hallam does seem to understand what's