In February 2018, the Office for Students (OfS) awarded Sheffield Hallam University funding to conduct a project into tackling religious-based hate crime on campus. The Project was co-led by Lesley Klaff and Jill Lebihan and it ran from March 2018 to April 2020. Its specific title was: Standing Together Against Hate: Developing Effective Community Partnerships to Tackle Religious-Based Hate Crime Affecting Students. A decision was made to concentrate on anti-Muslim hate, antisemitism, and apostasy-related hate crime, as these have seen a significant increase on campus in the last few years. The aim was to raise awareness of these types of hate, to learn how to recognise their manifestations – particularly at the level of discourse – and to learn how to intervene against them.
Student ambassadors were recruited as ‘peer educators’ from the undergraduate law programme and the human rights masters’ programme to help implement the Project; and partnerships were forged with communal and external organisations to help inform and implement the Project. These included Tell MAMA, the Community Security Trust, the Union of Jewish Students, Campaign Against Antisemitism, Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination, Faith to Faithless, the South Yorkshire Police Hate Crime Unit, and Sheffield Futures.
With the help of the student ambassadors and the Project’s external and communal partners, a series of symposia, workshops, and guest lectures were organised over the two-year period of the Project to discuss religious-based hate crime on campus, and how best to respond to it. These were offered to the University’s academic and administrative staff, chaplaincy, students, and Students’ Union. National conferences hosted by Universities UK (UUK) and the Office for Students (OfS) were also attended by Project’s student ambassadors and co-leads. The student ambassadors further created and developed a lively hate crime blog entitled Standing Together, which provided up-to-date information about hate incidents around the world. In addition, students who have experienced religiously-motivated hate incidents either on or off campus were encouraged to record their experiences in order to build up an archive of “digital stories.”
It is hoped that the Project has gone some way to changing the campus culture with respect to religiously motivated hate. One sign that this may be the case is that the University is set to consider the adoption on campus of the APPG definition of Islamophobia and the IHRA definition of Antisemitism in the forthcoming academic year. It will also consider a revision of the University’s policy on Freedom of Expression to include the “right not to be harmed” as well as the right to express oneself freely within the bounds of the law. Another lasting benefit of the Project is that the external partnerships forged are set to continue. Indeed, key representatives from Tell MAMA, the Community Security Trust, and Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination are scheduled to come back to campus to host symposia and talks next academic year, lockdown restrictions permitting.
To read students' blogs on hate crime visit the Standing Together blog site.