Written by Student Rights on 6 March 2014 at 6pm

LGBT students at Westminster produce 'How safe do you feel?' report (Update: Statement from UWSU)

UPDATE: The University of Westminster Student Union (UWSU) has released a statement responding to the LGBT Society report, which argues that:

UWSU understands that by representing all students, irrespective of views, ideas, beliefs, backgrounds and characteristics, this may mean representing different groups of students with opposing views and views that may never be reconciled”.

It then states that:

Regardless of this, we strongly believe that no student should feel intimidated or suffer harassment and/or discrimination whilst involved in UWSU activities or in our spaces”. 

It finishes by pledging that:

We intend to work closely with affected groups of students, University departments and appropriate staff to strengthen reporting procedures for intolerant or discriminatory behaviour.

A report recently published by the University of Westminster Student Union LGBT Society (UWSU LGBT) has investigated how safe LGBT students feel on campus after a number of concerns were reported.

The report, which aimed to understand how discrimination and prejudice influence the life of LGBT students at the University, was triggered by recent tensions fuelled by faith groups inviting homophobic speakers.

The results are worrying and “paint for us a harrowing image of life on campus” says the UWSU LGBT President Bridget Nkomo. 

They found that one third of University of Westminster students that participated in the study had witnessed and/or experienced homophobia or transphobia on campus.

What is even more concerning is that 50% of LGBT students do not feel safe all of the time they are on campus, with 3% of participants claiming that they never feel safe.

As such, it is hardly surprising that only half of the students that responded are completely open about their sexuality or gender identity; with 8% not out at all, even to the LGBT Society.

The report also highlights that students have been victims of physical and verbal assaults on campus, and indicates that LGBT students are being deprived of their fundamental rights.

As mentioned above, students stated that the situation has been exacerbated by the invitation of homophobic speakers to the university, such as Haitham Al-Haddad.

Haddad spoke at Westminster as recently as the 13th February, and is not an uncommon speaker on campuses around the UK.

He has written that there is a need “to combat the scourge of homosexuality” and states that even if homosexuality is an inherited trait “it still does not justify the criminal act”.

With this in mind one student states in the report that the University and Students Union “should be actively preventing speakers with homophobic views from having a platform”.

UWSU LGBT’s current Secretary Jamie Wareham says this shows that it is “difficult to be LGBT at the University of Westminster”, and the report outlines that most students believe that the University and the SU aren’t doing enough to support LGBT students.

Ultimately the society hopes that the report can serve as evidence of the gravity of the situation and can persuade the University and SU to take more decisive action towards protecting the safety of LGBT students on campus.

Bridget Nkomo says “something must be done to improve the experience of LGBT students at Westminster”, and on the basis of this report she is right.