Students are considering legal action after King’s College London admitted it shared the names of campus activists with police and disabled their ID cards amid fears they would disrupt a visit from the Queen.
A damning report published on Thursday revealed the names of 13 students and one staff member were handed to the Metropolitan police ahead of a royal appearance at the official opening of a new student building on March 19.
The findings, published after an independent investigation, exposed how the university’s security services — contracted to a private firm — breached general data protection regulation (GDPR) and its own policies regarding the protection of personal information.
The blacklist was created by the head of security using CCTV footage and cross-referencing timestamps from electronic access gates linked to student ID cards. The individuals targeted were affiliated with groups including Action Palestine, Intersectional Feminists, and Justice 4 Cleaners.
The report also found that the university’s general counsel had advised against the proposals to restrict access to parts of the university, saying it was not “proportionate” under the circumstances.
Student activists have now made a list of demands, including for campus security to be brought in-house, compensation for those affected, and the resignations of all senior management “who would rather the Queen attend university than students”.
They say if their demands are not met they will pursue legal action.
King’s College launched an investigation after several students who attend the London university raised concerns that they had been profiled and deliberately denied entry to their campus, attracting media attention.
The university initially dismissed accusations that students had been singled out, writing on Twitter: “We had an event today which demanded the highest level of security and we had to minimise movement through buildings for security reasons. At times some of our buildings were not accessible.”
Students said they were given “vague justifications” as to why some ID cards had been disabled, preventing them from accessing several university buildings including an offsite location nearly four miles away from where the Queen’s visit took place.
One student nearly missed an exam, another was late to an assessed presentation, while one said they could not gain access to the library and was forced to work elsewhere, the report noted.
Following the investigation, the Russell Group university, which charges fees upwards of £9,250 a year, accepted that its conduct did not meet it values.
In a letter addressed to staff and pupils, acting principal Professor Evelyn Welch described the findings as “uncomfortable to read”.
She wrote: “It makes clear that these actions we took with respect to our students were wrong and did not meet our values. We accept its findings and recommendations in full and are putting in place a plan to address all the issues that have been raised.”
Welch rejected any suggestion of racial profiling, writing: “I want to reiterate that discrimination on any grounds is unacceptable and is damaging to our community.”
“On this occasion, we let our community down by denying access to a small number of students without following proper process,” she added.
None of the pupils who were profiled had been involved in disciplinary proceedings or violated the university’s policies or regulations.
The findings include email correspondence between the head of security who supplied the names of identified protesters to the Met’s royalty and specialist protection team a day before the visit. “See attached sheets of our main protesters who move between groups and topics depending on their moods,” KCL’s head of security wrote.
Officers also asked the university to provide the students’ date of birth and any names used on social media, “either as individuals or groups”. However, this request was not carried out over concerns that it would “raise flags”.
The report concluded that passing on the names of students to the Met without a formal request was a breach of data protection regulations.
The head of security is no longer working at the university, and Welch said she is seeking to hire a new head of security.
Students have expressed dissatisfaction with the university’s apology and concerns over what will become of the collected data.
One student affected, identified only by her first name Riobhca, said in a statement that “despite being glad a thorough review has been conducted, I have no faith that the recommendations of the review will be carried out”.
In a statement, King’s College London Student Union said it was “disgusted and disappointed” by the actions of staff, and said it proved students were right to be concerned about surveillance on campus.
“In the aftermath of the initial incident, students raised concerns that there was a list which had been created through surveillance, and the report confirms this by revealing that the university cross-referenced CCTV footage and access gate information to create a list of students and one staff member who were involved in a protest against an unrelated event,” the union’s leaders said.
“We are furthermore deeply concerned by the revelation that the university can effectively track the locations of students via access gate records. We are students, not prisoners who must be tracked around campus.”
Ade Onibada is a junior reporter at BuzzFeed and is based in London.
Contact Ade Onibada at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ikran is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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