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Report of a review of security arrangements for the opening of Bush House, 19 March 2019.

This is an open letter from Professor Evelyn Welch, Acting Principal in response to the report of a review of security arrangements for the opening of Bush House, 19 March 2019. This has been sent to all staff, students and the wider King's community. The link to the report is featured to the right of this page.

I am writing this letter to the entire King’s College London community in my role as Acting Principal.

Many of you will be aware that during the official opening of Bush House in March, a number of King’s students were denied access to our campus. They were shocked by this, as were many others. At King’s we hold ourselves to the highest standards and ethical values and we set up an independent review to understand how the decisions to deny access were made and to examine their compliance with our policies and processes. Today, we are publishing this report.

The report has been uncomfortable to read. It makes it clear that the actions we took with respect to our students were wrong and did not meet our values. We accept its findings and recommendations in full and are putting in place a plan to address all the issues that have been raised.

It is also clear how the decisions taken in the run up to and on the 19th March have hurt our community. On behalf of the Principal and the entire leadership team, I want to apologise wholeheartedly.

The report shows that we need to take some actions to ensure that the values we uphold are applied consistently across our organisation. While individuals are identified, they should not be singled out as those who were solely responsible; as such we will be looking at the systemic underlying issues that we need to address at King’s going forward.

Our core purpose during any event at the university is to ensure that free and respectful dialogue can take place. On this occasion, we let our community down by denying access to a small number of students without following the appropriate process. This was not a minor episode. While the report does not suggest it, we accept that some interpreted the actions that were taken on the day as racial profiling. This was not the case and I want to reiterate that discrimination on any grounds is unacceptable and is damaging to our community.

It is not just our students who were impacted. We also let down our frontline staff, those who do the difficult job of looking after us every day. The report identifies the significant pressure placed on key individuals and their teams at high profile events such as the Bush House opening. We need to make sure we are giving them the support they need to do their jobs professionally and in line with our shared values.

One of the findings of the report is that we have breached our own policies regarding protection of personal information and the GDPR regulations. Following the event, we informed the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that we were undertaking this review. We have now shared the report with them and await their response. The report also contains recommendations about our security arrangements which we will follow as we bring our operations in house and a new Head of Security joins us.

Over the coming weeks, I will be consulting with the King’s community to develop detailed plans and actions to implement the recommendations set out in the report. Our aim is to have a plan ready by mid-September 2019 which we will also make public.

How we come together to respond to this report is a critically important moment for our institution. I hope it will demonstrate the best of King’s. If you wish to speak to me or my colleagues about any aspect of this report, please contact principal@kcl.ac.uk.

Professor Evelyn Welch
Acting Principal

Bush House Opening FAQ

What happened at the Bush House opening on the 19th March? 

During the official opening of Bush House on 19th March, 13 students and a member of staff were denied access to our campus.

 Why were students denied access?

The decision to deny access was made because of concerns over previous disruptive incidents on campus in the weeks preceding the event.  

 What were the previous disrupted events?

In the weeks preceding the official opening of Bush House there was a disruptive demonstration on campus (4th March).

On the day preceding the official opening of Bush House (18th March) a small number of students disrupted the Council meeting.

Did the Metropolitan Police make a formal request to King’s to deny students access?

No. The report concludes that there was no formal request from the Metropolitan Police.

 What was the GDPR breach?

On 4th March, there was a disruptive demonstration on campus. As a response to this disruption, the then Head of Security at King’s put together a list of names and photos of students and a member of staff who it was deemed had instigated issues.

The report finds that the creation of this list for the 4th March, and the limited circulation of such a list, was proportionate and appropriate as part of a disciplinary process and compliant with King’s Data Protection Policy and GDPR.

However, this list was further repurposed and provided to the Metropolitan Police ahead of the Bush Opening on 19th March. The release of this data to the Police when there was no formal request was a breach of the King’s Data Protection Policy and GDPR, which has been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

What data was released as part of the repurposed list?

The creation of the list of names and photos for the 4th March event, and the limited circulation of such a list was proportionate and appropriate, as part of a disciplinary process and was compliant with the King’s Data Protection Policy and GDPR.

The addition of information referring to membership of student societies and other comments, was not proportionate, or in keeping with the requirements of the disciplinary process. This is in breach of King’s Data Protection Policy and GDPR.

Why did your security team release information to the Metropolitan Police?

The then Head of Security at King’s had received unconfirmed reports that the individuals involved in the 4th March disruption were planning to also disrupt the official opening of Bush House and alerted the Metropolitan Police.

How many people had their information passed to the Metropolitan Police?

13 students and a member of staff had their details passed to the Metropolitan Police.

Will the staff at fault be disciplined? 

While individual staff did take decisions that ultimately led to this issue, the failings occurred at an institutional level. We did not do enough as an institution to ensure all our staff were supported to uphold our values.

The report identifies the significant pressure placed on key individuals and their teams at high profile events as was demonstrated at the Bush House opening.

While this is not an excuse for what happened, it is the context that led decisions to be made that ultimately breached our values. While individuals are identified in the report they should not be singled out as solely responsible.  

This independent report is clear that the responsibility for the actions during the official opening of Bush House were not down to individuals but rather problems with processes and governance at an institutional level. We accept that finding which is why we are taking an institution wide approach to implementing the report’s findings led by Acting Principal, Professor Evelyn Welch.

What is the university doing about it? What is the timeline for delivery? 

King’s College London commissioned an independent review by Laura Gibbs, Independent Higher Education Consultant, to understand how the decisions were made and their compliance with our policies and processes.  We have published the report and we accept all the findings and recommendations in full.

As Acting Principal, Professor Evelyn Welch will work closely and collaboratively with colleagues, students, King’s College London Student Union (KCLSU) and staff as we develop a plan to address all the issues that report raises.

At King’s we hold ourselves to the highest ethical values and as such want to be held to account. We will be working with KCLSU, our leadership teams, as well as other members of the King’s community to embed changes quickly. We will feedback progress in mid-September when the new term starts.

What is your current process for sharing information with law enforcement agencies?

Third parties may ask the university to disclose information relating to an individual for the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of criminal offences, including the safeguarding against and prevention of threats to public security. The university will only make disclosures of this kind on receiving the appropriate documentation and sufficient justification that the processing falls within a relevant exemption or statutory requirement, as detailed in our data protection policy and procedure.

Is this a breach of the student’s human rights - notably their right to assemble? 

No, it is not. They were denied access to the university but that does not constitute a breach of their human rights.

But the decision to deny access without following appropriate processes did breach the values of our institution.

Did racial profiling take place?

No. Students were denied access based on their previous activities on campus. We are proud of our diverse and inclusive community and while the report does not suggest it, we accept that some interpreted the actions that were taken on the day as potential racial profiling. However, the independent report does not identify it as one of the institution’s failings through the in-depth review of the incident.

At King’s we are clear that discrimination on any grounds is unacceptable and damaging to our community.

That is why Acting Principal, Professor Evelyn Welch will work closely and collaboratively with colleagues, students, KCLSU and staff as we develop a plan to address all the issues that the report raises.

Why was Laura Gibbs selected to conduct a review?

Laura Gibbs is an experienced senior higher education administrator and was commissioned to conduct the review because we wanted an independent review to understand how the decisions to deny access were made and to examine their compliance with our policies and processes.

How was Laura Gibbs’ independence maintained?

While Laura has been given access to all the resources required to carry out the review, Laura has worked independently conducting interviews.