Security or suppression?


Following reports of bullying by security staff, Danielle Moran looks at how to ensure every student feels safe on campus.

A daunting experience for many students, university life offers a near total freedom in exchange for the past familiarity of secondary school and the security of home. However, UCD is home to over 22,500 students and is essentially, a secure community itself. With the very size of the Belfield campus, a more than competent security team is vital.

There will always be incidents whereby some students will end up on the wrong side of security staff, and the number of these clashes will inevitably be higher during the very first and last weeks of the semester as students celebrate their initiation to college, or the culmination of a particularly exhausting examination period.

Despite this, reports this week that up to 800 student cards have been seized by new security contractors, Pulse Security are surprising to say the least. While students spend much of the first fortnight of the semester at the seemingly unlimited night events, it is hard to believe that so many students have breached discipline rules and have been justifiably confronted by security staff.

In fact, a figure released by university authorities which suggests that no more than 75 students have been asked to hand over their UCD idid card seems more in line with expectations. Yet, there is a striking difference in the university’s report of 75 incidents whereby students handed over their cards to security and the number of complaints that the Students’ Union have received regarding the behaviour of security staff.

Those who break the university’s student code should expect to face the consequences, and there will always be a small number of students who will do so. A security team must be able to control students who behave inappropriately or those who put another’s safety in question. But most importantly, a team who cater for a community, of which the vast majority are students, must be visible and promote a secure feeling on campus.

A safe and comfortable campus will not be the result of an intimidating and bullying security presence

According to complaints made by students over the past fortnight, it appears that Pulse are not doing what is expected of them. Yes, they are certainly visible however many students are concerned that sights of groups of security staff walking on campus are more threatening than reassuring. Perhaps patrolling the Belfield campus alone is not feasible, given that security personnel may have to break up groups of drunken students outside one of the two campus bars. However, the answer cannot be to send up to four or five staff to police concourse when students are simply walking to lectures after lunch.

Further reports of inappropriate remarks and even allegations of bullying are, as SU President Aodhán Ó Deá has described, “completely unacceptable”. A safe and comfortable campus will not be the result of an intimidating and bullying security presence. Students who feel bullied or harassed by those who are here soley for their protection will not prospor academically or socially at the time when doing so is vital for their development as adults.

University life presents a unique opportunity, allowing students unfamiliar levels of freedom coupled with a routine and security that is not prevalient in those first years on the career ladder. While we must step up to our responsiblities and behave within the justified confines of the student code, this requires nothing more than common decency towards those around us. Those who do not show this respect, should show enough maturity to deal with the consequences of their actions.

The relationship between the 22,500 strong student community in this university and the security team should be for the most part, a positive and reassuring one despite the fact that the behaviour of a small number of students will inevitably conflict with members of Pulse. However, intimidating acts by the security team, such as inappropriate remarks, or bullying will not rid the campus of what are sometimes violent, yet isolated incidents.

By appearing unapproachable or even threatening, security staff will only isolate themselves from the student, when in fact, Pulse must work with the student population if they are to ensure a safe environment on this campus.