University and Union erect wall on Eliot footpath amid new security measures

Alejandro Javierre 8 April 2021

Image by Alex Charilaou

A wall has been erected on the Eliot footpath area as part of new security measures across campus to stop attacks at night.

New measures, which are aimed at increasing the safety of paths leading to and from campus and the Parkwood area, have formed part of the Union’s response to growing fears of night-time attacks on routes within the University of Kent.

Aisha Dosanjh, Vice-President for Welfare and Communities, said: “The fence has been put up down Eliot footpath, but in addition to that, we found a number of streetlamps that were defective.

“All of the defective lamp posts found had their headlamps replaced, and some of them have been turned to make sure the most amount of light is going on to the path.”

The Union also identified other parts of the campus, including parts of the Parkwood accommodation, that were especially dark at night which will see new lighting.

Other plans include new CCTV equipment on campus being budgeted for the new financial year and a new student group has been set up to liaise with the Union on safety issues.

Aisha added: “I think what is quite worrying about next year that there will be a lot of people coming to University who were 16 at the start of lockdown.

“What we’re trying to do is to make sure that there’s adequate support for people who are going in to town, Josh [Frost] had been doing a lot of work with campus security to find safety routes in the main footfall where students go into town.”

The response to attacks on Eliot footpath

The Union’s plans come after accounts from students at the University documenting attacks on the largely unlit paths around the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus surfaced on social media.

One of the groups involved in the resulting movement to see improvements to security at the University was UN Women Kent, a society on campus.

The Chair of UN Women Kent, Gwen Morel, said: “We contacted the Union, and for a few days the union did not reply.

“Then it [the post about the footpath attacks] blew up, and so many people said it had happened to them so we kept contacting Kent Union.”

She added: “Kent Union just said that they needed people to report before they could do anything, which made it just feel like they were waiting for something to happen before they could act.”

The group also contacted Kent Police about the assaults, who liaised with the University to ensure the area was patrolled sufficiently to deter would-be attackers.

Gwen said: “They were definitely there for the people who reported assaults, and they were effective for that reason, but obviously because when something happens on campus, the first people who can react is not the police, it’s campus security.

“Campus security was not patrolling that far off campus – We had to tell them to go there.”