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City-wide response to night time student safety concerns

Posted on 21 October 2021

Important message from your elected students’ union representatives, university leaders, and partners across the City of York.

Content alert: This message covers sensitive content relating to sexual violence

Dear student,

We are writing as your elected students’ union representatives, university leaders, and partners across the City of York, about the increased concern around spiking.

In recent weeks, as licensed venues have reopened and students have returned to campuses across the country, there has been a notable increase in the number of students, both in York and nationally, reporting concerns around their safety on nights out, in particular the spiking of drinks and spiking by injection.

Ensuring the safety of all York students is our absolute priority and we would like to assure you we are working swiftly, in collaboration with key members of the city, to address the concerns raised .  We want to ensure a fully joined up, city-wide response which includes students, universities, licensed venues, Police and the Council working together to actively address issues.

On campus

Across our YUSUBars venues, we’ve introduced a series of informational campaign materials with helpful tips on how to have a safe night out and to recognise the symptoms of spiking. 

Our Women and Nonbinary Network have been working hard in their spiking awareness campaign, working with YUSUBars venues to make spikeys (bottle stoppers) widely available, and ensuring our campaign materials are expanded in venues across York. Our officers have also launched a blog which outlines how to recognise the signs of spiking, where to get support and how to report it.

We also want to ensure the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign is expanded beyond our venues and integrated into venues across the City. We are continuing our joint campaign with NeuroSight and the GSA, Increase your Knowledge, Decrease the Harm, to highlight the risks of mixing drugs and alcohol.

Off campus

For any issues experienced on an Official YUSU Weekly Student Club Night, we have worked closely with York Parties to introduce a Reporting System for students to raise concerns directly with us. This is a direct route to report issues to the YUSU Events team on any issue surrounding students across our Official club nights throughout the week. 

NightSafe is a student volunteering group, providing immediate support and signposting, with a huge range of resources regarding the effects of drink spiking and safety on nights out. They work closely with DoorSafe supervisors and the emergency services to put student safety first, and operate around the four YUSU weekly club nights.

We are pleased to have a Student Safety Policy with Streamline Taxis, meaning that with a valid student ID card, you can get a taxi ride home with the option to pay the next day if you do not have any money with you to pay the fare that evening.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, seek assistance by alerting the venue bar or security staff as soon as possible. If you have been the victim of crime you can report it to North Yorkshire Police online or by calling 101. In an emergency, always phone 999.

City-wide response 

We continue to work closely with York St John University and their Students’ Union, North Yorkshire Police, and City of York Council to take a holistic view and proactive approach to addressing areas of concern.

We are in active contact with licensed venues across the City, working with the Council and the Police from a licensing perspective, to ensure that venues are aware of their responsibilities to keep York students, and others, safe. These conversations will continue in the coming days and weeks with a key focus on a city-wide effort.

North Yorkshire Police been delivering WAVE (Welfare and Vulnerability Engagement) Training to staff in licensed premises to prevent and reduce sexual violence and vulnerability in the Night Time Economy and beyond. 

The Police continue to make enquiries with NHS partners to clarify their policy in terms of testing and strenuously encourage the reporting of suspected spiking incidents to them by calling 101 or in an emergency, 999. 

We want to foster an environment where we are able to promptly address student safety concerns with relevant organisations across the City of York. We can only do this with your assistance, so we would strongly encourage you to contact us directly with any concerns, using the channels listed above, and also to report any incidents to the Police as all information and intelligence helps to understand the issues better.

Spiking will not be tolerated

Finally, we would like to remind you that the act of spiking has many forms. While for many of you it will bring to mind spiking of drinks with drugs and spiking by injection, it also encompasses things like adding alcohol to non-alcoholic drinks or deceiving someone into thinking a treble shot of alcohol is actually a single. 

These acts are illegal, and can be equally as dangerous, and will not be tolerated in our venues or elsewhere in our community. There does not have to be any further crime eg sexual assault or theft; the spiking in itself is crime.

Please keep an eye out for your friends, calling out any behaviours you know to be wrong if you see them happening in action. You can report misconduct to the University, either with your contact details, or anonymously through the Report + Support tool.

Further support

Please continue to reach out to your elected student representatives or your College Life Coordinator if you have any further questions, and should you require any further support there are a range of University support services available to you.

Thank you for continuing to look out for one another.

With best wishes,

Patrick O’Donnell, President, University of York Students’ Union
Kelly Balmer, Community and Wellbeing Officer, University of York Students’ Union

Viviane Cao, President, York Graduate Students’ Association
JiaYing Tan, Vice-President Community and Wellbeing, York Graduate Students’ Association

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor, University of York
Professor Tracy Lightfoot, PVC for Learning, Teaching and Students

Mark Khan, Senior Operational Commander for York and Selby, North Yorkshire Police