Lucy Donaldson argues Glasgow University must be held accountable after the delay in the University’s response to the Dawsholm Park sexual assault.
Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault.
Police Scotland have launched an investigation after a teenage girl was raped at Dawsholm Park, near the University of Glasgow’s Garscube campus on Monday. A police spokesperson said: “Police Scotland is carrying out enquiries after a 16-year-old woman was seriously sexually assaulted at Dawsholm Park in a wooded area a short distance from the entrance at Ilay Court in Glasgow at 8.10pm on Monday, June 1.”
Despite the incident occurring on June 1, with STV news and other outlets reporting the incident by June 2, the university didn’t notify students until June 4. A rashly constructed email, sent through Internal Communications, stated: “Staff and students may be aware of a report of a sexual assault at Dawsholm Park near the University’s Garscube Estate on a young woman who had no connection with the university.” It gave the number for campus security and encouraged students and staff to be vigilant.
Approximately an hour later, a follow-up email was sent. The second email included a trigger warning, links to support resources and more sensitive and reassuring language regarding the University’s duty of care. The inadequacy of the first email and the need for a second implies a poorly thought out and clumsy reaction on the university’s part. For students and staff, who rely on the University to create a safe environment in and around campus, this seems less than reassuring.
The University’s lack of urgency in notifying students of the assault left a three-day window where students were walking around oblivious, unable to take the suitable precautions to protect themselves. I personally walked home by myself at around 2am on the morning of Thursday, June 4 – something I would never have done if I had been notified by the University sooner. I will be one of many university users who have potentially put themselves at risk over the last week due to a lack of information.
The way the University has handled this particular incident recalls to mind it’s handling of the string of sexual assaults across campus in November 2019. It took the University several weeks, three West End attacks, and one assault next to the University library to notify students of the potential danger. At the time, SRC President Scott Kirby said, “It is unfathomable how this has not been communicated as students rightfully feel they have been let down for not being made aware of these incidents. We are incredibly angry and as a priority, we will be seeking assurances from the university and Police Scotland that this does not happen again as student safety is of utmost importance to us.”
Responding to the November backlash, the University tweeted, “We understand concerns re: the timing of our posts. As soon as Police Scotland made us aware of the assaults, we put advice out.” Whether the blame for this most recent failure can be placed on Police Scotland or the University is up for debate. However, it is undeniable that a better and more immediate alert system must be put in place to notify students of assaults on or nearby any university campus as soon as they occur. Despite reassurances from both University representatives and Police Scotland following the November incident, students have once again been let down.
Thankfully, in this instance, no other assaults have thus far been reported, but this may not have been the case. In the future, more must be done to abide by the University’s duty of care and protect students and staff.
If you have any information regarding this incident please contact Police Scotland on 101.
If you feel unsafe on campus, or have any other concerns please contact campus security, who are available 24/7, on 0141 330 2222.
For more University safety and well-being support please visit: https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/students/safetyhealth/