Union to equip students in fighting hate crime

The Students’ Union is launching a wide-ranging initiative to gauge students’ opinions on campus safety, with a focus on the concerns of minority groups and the reporting of hate crimes.

The campaign begins this week when the SU website will host a survey to gather student views on security on campus, and the Union is keen to encourage all students to take part. The survey was included in Monday’s SU newsletter.

The issue of student safety has been brought to the fore in the past year by an assault in the alley alongside University House, triggering the University to install gates that lock overnight, in addition to two other incidents near the Science Park.

According to SU Welfare Officer Leo Bøe and Women’s Campaigns Officer Charli Fritzner, the campaign has multiple aims.

“We want to be in a strong position to petition the University on matters of safety,” said Fritzner, noting that statistical evidence of student concerns would help the SU to push Warwick on such issues. While acknowledging that it is important that the University takes advice through official channels, such as the police, both noted how important it was that the University not simply pay “lip service” to student concerns.

She nonetheless emphasised that the Union is keen to find out in which areas students think there could be improvement, saying: “We would like to learn.”

Bøe also hoped that the survey itself would help raise awareness amongst students of safety issues.

“While the campus is a public space with all sorts of people walking in and out, and that’s good and how it should be, we have to ensure that students feel secure,” he said. The survey includes a link to a website containing more information on hate crime reporting.

He is also concerned that people at Warwick are not fully aware of what constitutes a hate crime, defining it as when a victim feels that “someone acts in a prejudicial way towards them based on some aspect, or perceived aspect, of their identity.

“I’m trained in hate crime reporting,” Bøe added, stating that many students were unaware of what to do if they feel that have been victims. “Students need to know that they can come and talk to me or the International Office confidentially if they have any concerns.”

Katie Kates, President of Warwick Pride, feels such measures are important.

“This is definitely a worthwhile thing to do,” she agreed. “Hate crime does happen and people need to know where to go.”

Asked if there was anything she thought should have been done sooner, Kates responded that too many students did not know at all that help was available. She added: “If you don’t know that it exists, then you’re not going to look for it.”

Bøe’s initiative will address broader issues than just safety. He wants to consider a range of issues that affect minority groups that might have previously felt disconnected from the Union, focusing on LGBTUA+ groups, religious minorities and people with disabilities. As well as looking at hate crime reporting, the research will also investigate how such groups view their relationship with the SU and life on campus generally.

“It’s about making sure that all minority groups feel they are getting their voices heard,” Bøe continued. “It’s an opportunity to express your views anonymously.”

“I think that concern [that groups might feel disenfranchised] is valid,” said Kates in response. “As a member of a minority group it’s very easy to feel disconnected.

“We really just want to let people know that we are here and we can help.”

Bøe hopes to present the results of this research at the next liaison meeting between the University and SU.

To fill out the survey, please go to the [SU website.](http://www.warwicksu.com/news/article/warwicksu/3178/)


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