After delay, independent external review of Campus Security launches

After an alleged racial profiling incident in June 2020, UBC has just begun the process of an external review of Campus Security on both campuses.

However, an Freedom of Information request (FOI) revealed that President Santa Ono requested an external party to be chosen and terms of reference for the review to be sent to him by the end of June with the outcome of the review available to him by October 1.

On November 12, 2020, VP Finance & Operations Peter Smailes sent an email to students, informing them that the review would be conducted by Canadian law firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP, more than a month after Ono requested the review be completed.

Over the summer, Savoy Williams, a Black graduate student, alleged that on June 8, Campus Security refused to let him into a building on campus on the basis of his race. Despite a letter of permission from his supervisor, Williams was prevented from entering Buchanan Tower by a guard. Williams filed a formal complaint and received an apology from Campus Security, with a promise from the university to internally investigate the incident.

Ono announced an external review of Campus Security shortly after on June 16.

The FOI shows that on June 13, Ono sent an email to Smailes regarding this external review, which he recommended focus on the impact of policies and procedures on racialized members of UBC, requesting a “best of class” external party to undertake the review.

“I expect to receive information from you regarding 1) the external party you recommend and 2) the terms of reference for the review within 14 days,” he wrote in the email, “My expectation will be that the outcome of the review will be made available to me by October 1, 2020.”

Ono added that he means to make the outcome of this review public.

Matthew Ramsey, the director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations wrote that it took time to identify the reviewer.

"It was incumbent on the university to identify an external reviewer with experience in examining systemic bias issues in organizations as large and complex as the university,” said Ramsey, adding that UBC was busy addressing the impact of COVID-19 in June.

The last external review of UBC Campus Security, conducted in 2016, made many recommendations regarding increased clarity of roles and responsibilities, better allocation of funds and improvement in the sense of community, among others. There was no mention of potentially discriminatory policies.

Conversely, this review will focus on “ensuring the safety of historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized students, faculty, and staff.”

Smailes’ statement also urged all students, faculty and staff to fill in a survey about their awareness of and experiences with discrimination generally, and regarding campus services, to aid with the review.

This external review will examine practices and training of Campus Security for institutional racism and systemic bias. It will also consider how officers respond to various incidents on campus and clarify the relationship of Campus Security with the RCMP.