Open Letter on University Security and Student Safety
Below is the text of the open letter the Geas Committee is drafting to the University Vice-Principal. If you wish to sign the open letter, please feel free to submit your name and student number (if applicable). We welcome student and non-student members to sign.
The form will collect your name, email address and student number. This information will be used to send this open letter, along with all signatures, to the University management and to EUSA. We will send this letter by the end of the week, so please feel free to sign this if you wish. We will delete this form and associated databases thereafter. By submitting this form, you consent to your information being used in this way.
Prof. Colm Harmon
The University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh University Students Association
Dear Prof. Harmon,
Open Letter on University Security and Student Safety
My name is Vivek Santayana, and I am the Equality and Wellbeing Officer of a Geas: the Role-Playing Society at the University. I am also an international student from India. I am writing regarding the heinous racist attack on our campus on the evening of 11 December 2020, the University Security’s response to it, and the University leadership’s statement on 14 December.
I, as well as all of the undersigned, would like to echo the concerns that other students, particularly members of East Asian and South-East Asian communities, are raising regarding students’ safety in light of this attack and other similar incidents in the past months on or near the Central Area campus.
We are especially alarmed by reports of the inadequacy of the University Security’s response to the situation, and that Security staff did not intervene during the incident but were standing by until afterwards. As a student society, we rely on the Security staff when it comes to the safety of our own members at any in-person functions or events we used to run. When we have had incidents of abusive or hostile behaviour at our events in the past, we have turned to Security staff for their support. They remain an important point of call in all of our safety and complaints procedures for our members. However, such reports of inaction have severely undermined our confidence in such measures and our ability to support our members’ welfare.
To ensure the safety of our members, we need the Security staff to be able to respond to and support students in the event that such incidents occur. This is why we are calling on you, as Vice-Principal Students, to:
* Launch a comprehensive investigation into University Security’s handling of this incident as well as their efficacy in dealing with racism on campus
* Ensure that security staff are adequately trained, resourced, and up-skilled in assisting trauma survivors so that they can intervene and support students during such incidents, and
* Hold Security staff accountable for the way they respond to and handle complaints from students.
We would also like to involve the EUSA Vice-President Welfare to ensure that student voices are heard in the process, and that members of the BAME/BIPOC communities’ experiences and needs in particular are listened to.
We acknowledge that this is a distressing time for all students, especially students from minoritised backgrounds. The University has a public sector duty under §149 of the Equality Act (2010) to eliminate discrimination and harassment, and to promote good relations between communities. The leadership of the University thus has a responsibility to be proactive in its commitment to anti-racist work, and must recognise and address these incidents with due regard to the wider context. This is why we lament the vagueness of the University’s response to the incident in the statement issued on 14 December, as it fails to name the incident as a racist attack targeting a specific marginalised community.
It is imperative that any review or investigation of the University Security is conducted with particular emphasis on dealing with racism. Simply increasing security and/or police presence on campus will not address the racism and inequality that are at the root of this issue. This securitisation and increased policing will further have a detrimental impact on BAME/BIPOC members of our community. We need a systematic and concerted effort by the University to support the welfare of the students as well as local communities in order to mitigate these inequalities in the long term through community-based approaches.
We as a student society need to make sure that the University is a safe place for our members, and we would like to lend our voice in support of students directly affected by racism on campus. This is why we are joining the student activists’ call for the University to take tangible and concrete measures in ensuring that our campuses are safe for students, and to pay specific and focussed attention to issues of racism in this current climate.
Vivek Santayana (s1101043)
Equality and Wellbeing Officer
Geas: the Role-Playing Society,
As well as the undersigned co-signatories:
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