‘I have had enough’: Black student alleges racial profiling by UBC security

A Black student alleges he was racially profiled by Campus Security.

Second-year social justice graduate student Savoy Williams alleges Campus Security didn’t let him into a campus building “based solely on race,” according to an emailed statement from David Ng, media representative of the Graduate Student Association of the Social Justice Institute. Ng said the association is acting as a “buffer” for Williams to prevent him from having to relive the incident.

With a letter of permission from his supervisor, Williams attempted to enter Buchanan Tower to go to his supervisor’s office on Monday, June 8. He had provided Campus Security with the letter, but he said through a statement by his media representative that a guard questioned its authenticity along with Williams’s student card and barred him from entering the building.

Though Williams offered to call his supervisor with the contact information included on the letter and a custodian recognized Williams and vouched for him, he said the guard didn’t believe his story.

“The guard disputed the veracity of the phone number, and argued that Savoy could have orchestrated someone to impersonate as his supervisor,” reads the statement. “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.”

Williams filed a formal complaint with UBC Human Resources and said the department pressured Williams “into dismissing race as a factor of the incident,” Ng wrote in the press release.

In an email to The Ubyssey, Rae Ann Aldridge, executive director safety & risk services, said the university was aware of the June 8 incident.

“Campus Security has previously reached out to the student to apologize for how that interaction affected him,” said Aldridge. “We take his concerns very seriously and we deeply regret the impact of this interaction on him.” She added that UBC will be looking into hiring an external agency to provide training for university staff to address racism and bias.

The allegation also comes amid UBC making a host of commitments to “zero tolerance” for racism on campus following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent anti-racist protests across the United States and Canada.

This incident occurs just over a year after a Black attendee of the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences was racially profiled and harassed on campus.

“Since arriving at UBC I have faced continued racism,” said Williams in a statement to The Ubyssey. “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.”

This is the second time Williams said he has been racially profiled at UBC, the first being in November 2019 when Ng said Williams and a group of students were invited to eat leftover catering. But a staff member with a UBC name tag questioned only Williams, the sole Black person in the group, about whether he was allowed to have the food. He filed two complaints regarding the November incident and nothing came out of it, according to the press release.

However, UBC Media Relations said Williams was sent an emailed response about the November incident on December 6 but did not disclose details of the email because it contained sensitive information about Williams. Ng maintains Savoy never received the email.

“Combined, the racist micro-aggressions, 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,” Williams added.

“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.”

This article was updated June 12 at 6:05 p.m. to include a statement from Rae Ann Aldridge, UBC executive director of safety & risk services.