BRUSSELS – Students, especially those of a migrant or ethnic minority background, LGBTQ, disabled and of a lower economic status, can often be victims of hate speech at their universities. The European Students’ Union (ESU) has decided to raise awareness about this problem by supporting the No Hate Speech Movement and joining their campaign.
“Higher educational institutions should be open and represent the demographics of our societies. ESU has therefore decided to join the campaign to show solidarity with those members of society that are victims of hate speech to let others know that students from their community are being bullied. Many times we do not realise that the words we use in our daily lives constitute hate speech and offend other people,” says Gabriela Bergan, Human Rights and Solidarity Coordinator at ESU.
Education for everyone
ESU believes that education should be accessible to all people and does think that hate speech can contribute to the opposite where minorities are stigmatised.
“Every human being has the right to be treated fairly and equally. If a student is a victim of hate speech, it can affect his attendance at classes, his academic results and his involvement in social and student activities. We are against this discrimination,” says Bergan.
Affects drop-out rates
Those students that are victims of hate speech can suffer from psychological traumas and become socially isolated. This can make it difficult for them to develop personally and academically during their studies and they might not be able to play their role as active citizens in society later on.
“A large part of the society does not seek higher education because it is afraid of the thought of being discriminated against. In the end, the society will have to pay the price as those people will not be able to contribute to a knowledge-based society and play an active role in the society. Hate speech will just polarise and divide our society,” Bergan says.
Join the campaign
ESU encourages students to join the No Hate Speech campaign and be aware of and act against hate speech in their daily lives. Students can also report incidences they have witnessed or been victims of to their student unions that can take action.
“We must make sure that hate speech is not tolerated at any event, such as in sports, dances or conferences. We encourage students to participate in and organise trainings, seminars and campaigns that raise awareness about this issue. But they should also think carefully about the words they use and what consequences they may have on other people,” says Bergan.
Delegates of national unions of students at the 26th European Students’ Convention contributed to the campaign. Photos/LSS
Gabriela Bergan is the Human Rights and Solidarity Coordinator at ESU.
ESU encourages everyone to contribute to the campaign.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.