Following our previous article, LSE has released several statements regarding the rationale behind the newly installed benches which have sparked public concern.
There are two officially stated reasons behind the new benches: the first being “extreme anti-social behaviour in the area” uncovered by “a number of reports from LSE staff and students who were threatened and abused by members of the public gathering on the benches outside the library”.
The LSE security team has claimed that at least 5 incidents have occurred on campus since October 2016.
“4th October 2016: Photo evidence of extremely unsanitary waste left by group in the area
16th March 2017: A ‘blood throwing’ incident where a student was threatened and spattered with blood on library plaza. The student was screened in hospital afterwards
14th May 2017: Two men arrested following an incident where both security staff and students were physically threatened and racially abused
12th December 2017: A serious incident of violence; with a fight leaving one man with a broken arm
14th July 2018: A lone female student leaving the library was verbally harassed by a group drinking in the area between 8 and 9pm. When she didn’t respond to initial approaches, they became abusive.”
The second reason cited for the new installation comes from LSE Estates, who claim that “the old benches were in a poor condition, with cracks in the metal framework”, had “no back rest – so needed replacing”. The first bench was installed in February 2018, another in the beginning of May, and the last four in mid-July this year. No other benches have been installed on campus.
LSE Estates told the Beaver that the benches are sourced from the furniture manufacture Hille, who supply Transport for London’s underground and overground stations.
Yet in spite of the new installation, LSE’s spokesperson told the Beaver that LSE Estates will be conducting a review of “these measures to determine whether they are appropriate”. They have confirmed that they will “invite submissions from members of the LSE community” and consult “homeless charities, support agencies and experts to decide the best way forward.”
LSE Media Relations did not respond to The Beaver’s queries as to whether LSE believes the new benches will prevent anti-social behaviour, or if the benches are a form of ‘hostile architecture’.
Caitlin Prowle, Social Policy student and Chair of LSESU Labour, commented: ‘While I appreciate LSE officially responding to this complaint, I’m struggling to see the relevance of putting in armrests to the problem of antisocial behaviour. The only thing this does is stop people sleeping there – it doesn’t stop people gathering or sitting there. Given the history of anti-homelessness architecture in London, I am suspicious as to whether these armrests have really been put in place for the reasons cited by LSE.”
The petition initiated on Monday by a group of LSE students to remove the new benches now has over 700 signatures.
The Beaver has received verbal confirmation from the Library that ground floor toilets have been locked in the evenings over the past month, and over the past day we have been investigating the reasons behind this. Yesterday morning The Beaver was told that Security wanted to apologise for the “temporary blip.” The Beaver will continue to report this story upon receiving further information.