Students are concerned with the upcoming ‘Safe and Secure’ workshops led by plain-clothed Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) at the colleges of the University of the Arts, London due to the police service’s poor reputation with minority groups.
The workshops were originally created to inform students and alumni, with PCSOs from their Safer Neighbourhood team attending in plain clothes. However, students have raised concerns that the staff from the Metropolitan Police have arresting powers on campus.
In a statement, UAL’s Student Union officers said the workshops were opposed in previous SU meetings due to the “history of their treatment of minority groups”. This, alongside the officers being unidentifiable in plain clothes, has left students troubled as they feel that “UAL has not been transparent to the students in advance to their attendance.”
Minority group students have stated that they feel “extremely unsafe” with the knowledge that PCSOs will be at their place of education. Many students brought up the history of accusations of institutionalised racism, misogyny, homophobia and victim blaming within the Metropolitan Police.
One UAL student said that they were now “extremely apprehensive” about coming into LCC on the days of the workshops. “It’s the middle of Black History Month. I want to feel safe in an institution that listens to concerns from minority voices.”
The cause for concern links to the conduct of the Met in recent years, such as the case of Sarah Everard who was brutally murdered by a former member of the force, and its after effects, or long-standing concerns such as the targeting of black and brown minorities.
Despite having voiced many students’ opposition to these workshops, the SU has seemingly not been listened to. UAL plans to go ahead with the workshops in October and November – much to the SU’s dismay. Students have stated that they feel “almost ignored” by the institution’s actions after the persistent opposition towards the plans represented by the SU officers.
Although UAL initially responded with the request of alternative organisations and an understanding of the “students’ apprehension”, there have been no changes to the workshops as of yet.
Sabbatical officer and student at London College of Communication Sophia Nasif has said that she is “deeply disappointed” at the invitation by the university and that she “strongly opposes the presence of the Metropolitan Police Service on campus.”
Sabbatical officers have stated that they will be taking further feedback from the students during the weeks ahead and continuing to raise concerns with the university’s senior leadership.
There will be an opportunity to discuss the matter at the Annual Members’ Meeting on November 30th, in which the SU encourage students to attend and “share their thoughts”.
Students have also been taking to social media to share their thoughts, including a post which was made by a popular meme account on Instagram with over 11.9k followers.
Comments added by followers include one which just read “ACAB” (All Cops are Bastards), while others expressed confusion that they had not been informed that these workshops will be taking place at their campus.
The workshops’ dates have been noted in the statement by the SU so that they are clarified to students, and any changes will be sent out to inform alumni.
Artefact has contacted UAL’s press office requesting a statement but no response has so far been received.