(Content Warning: this email mentions the racist assault on campus this weekend, but does not go into detail.)
As you may be aware, there was a heinous racist attack in front of the University Library over the weekend. This incident has shocked the university community, in particular East Asian and South East Asian students who have been targeted in other similar incidents around the University over the last few months. The Geas Committee recognises that such hate crimes affect all our members directly or indirectly. While our events are all virtual, we acknowledge that many of our members are still accessing the University campus, and we want to do our part in making sure our members are safe. In this email, I would like to share some general advice on safety on campus (adapted from the UoE web site: https://www.ed.ac.uk/students/new-students/start-university/explore-edinburgh/staying-safe)
- Look after yourself. Incidents like this are deeply distressing. It is important that all of us look after our own welfare, either by talking to people, doing what we enjoy doing, taking a break from things, etc.
- Stay together in groups (while maintaining social distancing). There is safety in numbers, both in terms of you having others to back you up in a confrontation, and so you will have witnesses should you need to report or escalate the matter.
- Keep to well-lit and busy areas (especially if you’re on your own). This makes it more likely that other people will be able to support you should anything happen. While this doesn’t completely negate the risk, as the incident in question happened right in front of the library, it does make the situation easier to respond to afterwards.
- Make sure your phone is charged. This will enable you to contact the police, or to gather evidence of incidents later.
- Have friends or flatmates whom you check in with regularly. Let them know where you are, when you’ll be home, and if your plans change.
- Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. When in doubt, trust your gut. If something makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, just leave.
- Finally, reach out and check in with your friends from marginalised backgrounds. We recognise that there has been an increase in hate crimes against members of BAME communities, and we need to make sure to reach out and support people we know from minoritised backgrounds.
Furthermore, due to the way the University Security handled the situation, I personally am uncomfortable advising people to contact them in case of any incidents. Should something happen, raise it with security, but be sure to report it to the Police as well by calling 999. We understand that for a lot of people, going to the police can be deeply distressing, especially given existing issues of structural racism and ableism within policing. This is why, if you need any help with what to expect from contacting the police, please feel free to contact me (either via email at Geas.Welfare, or through social media), and I can share my experience of what dealing with the police to report hate crimes was like if it would be helpful. If you are a student, you can also speak to the EUSA Advice Place about how best to seek support.
As Geas’ Equality and Wellbeing Officer and as a South Asian student at the University, I understand how terrifying such an incident must be, especially for students from minoritised backgrounds. I just want to acknowledge that this fear is a valid and legitimate response to such a situation, and it is right for us to question how safe we are as students at the University. I would like to reassure everyone that we all belong at the University and that we deserve to feel safe. We will be asking the University to take concerted action to guarantee students’ safety and to address issues of racism, and we will do our best to signpost relevant resources and information to our members to the best of our abilities.
What Can We Do To Help?
To these ends, there are three concrete actions that our members can take if you want to do something about it:
- The Committee is drafting an open letter to the Vice-Principal Students to investigate University Security’s inaction in the incident, and to ensure that the university is proactive in holding security to account and addressing issues of racism. We welcome all members, students and non-students, to sign this letter by adding their name (and student number where relevant) via the following Google form: https://geas.org.uk/openletter.
- There is a solidarity demo happening this evening on University campus which you can attend (while adhering to social distancing and wearing a mask). Vivek will be at the event along with another staff members at the University, so you won’t be alone if you go. (Feel free to contact Vivek via Discord) https://www.facebook.com/groups/136169194764666/permalink/136666864714899/
- The BAME Liberation Officer at the University is listening to feedback on any needs and suggestions BAME/BIPOC students may have. You can contact Ayanda Ngobeni at firstname.lastname@example.org
Solidarity with all our members.
By the Power of Friendship,
Equality and Wellbeing Officer