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'I have had enough': UBC grad student says he was refused entry to building based on race

FILE -- The UBC sign is pictured at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on April 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Graduate student Savoy Williams says he was racially profiled by campus security, and racism has marred his time at UBC

The Graduate Student Association of the Social Justice Institute is backing Williams' call for accountability, action

In a statement, UBC says an apology has been made and more training will be done to address racism and bias

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Pursuing a master’s degree at UBC’s Social Justice Institute was a dream for Savoy Williams, but he says racism on campus has made studying there a nightmare.

Williams, who is Black, is speaking out after an incident on Monday, and he says it”s not the first time he’s been discriminated against.

“Since arriving at UBC I have faced continued racism. I am scared for my safety and well being. I need the perpetrators to be held accountable at all levels. I have had enough –this isn’t the first time this has happened at UBC and I fear that there will be no accountability taken by the university for the actions of the people they employ,” he writes in a statement.

He has filed a formal complaint against Campus Security after he says he was denied access to a building despite having permission to be there on June 8.

“Combined, the racist micro-aggresssions, the blatant policing of who is ‘assumed’ to belong, and the refusal to grant entry despite following protocol designated to grant entry, all reveal discriminatory practices carried out by a security guard trained and employed by UBC,” he writes.

A statement from the Graduate Student Association of the Social Justice Institute outlines what Williams encountered when he went to use an office in the Buchanan building, noting UBC has security protocols in place for students who need access during the pandemic.

“Following UBC security protocols on entering buildings during COVID-19, [Williams] contacted security dispatch, and provided the officer with the permission letter to be let into the building. The dispatched officer questioned the authenticity of the permission letter, as well as [Williams’] student status, despite being shown a valid student ID,” writes association president David Ng.

“[Williams] then suggested to call his supervisor, whose phone number was included in the permission letter. The guard disputed the veracity of the phone number, and argued that Savoy could have orchestrated someone to impersonate as his supervisor. At this time, a custodial staff recognized Savoy, vouched for his student status and legitimate access to the building. However, the guard dismissed this, and continued to press and question Savoy’s legitimate permission to access the building.”

UBC’s Executive Director of Safety & Risk Services, Rae Ann Aldridge has issued a statement responding to the complaint, saying an apology has been made and there are plans in place for security to receive more training.

“We take his concerns very seriously and we deeply regret the impact of this interaction on him and we are following up directly with the student to ensure they are aware of resources available to support them,” she writes in an email.

“We will also be engaging an external agency to provide additional training and support for UBC staff as one of many commitments made in recent weeks by the university to better address issues of anti-Black, anti-Asian and anti-Indigenous racism and bias.”

However, the student association and Williams maintain that the institution is not acknowledging or addressing racism.

“The university fails to name what has transpired here with me this Monday, in addition to last November, and time and time again as Anti-Black racism,” Williams writes.

“The Graduate Student Association of the Social Justice Institute at UBC condemn the actions of the security officer that racially profiled Savoy, and the attempts by UBC’s Human Resources to sideline, dismiss and condone this action that relies on stereotypes of racialized communities,” Ng writes.

“We urge UBC to take responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of its students, especially during this moment of reckoning against anti-black racism in North America and around the world. We demand that UBC security, UBC human resources, and the broader institution be held accountable for this act of discrimination.”

With files from Marcus Fitzgerald