On March 19, 2019, King’s College London (KCL) reportedly temporarily denied 10 students access to campus buildings during a campus visit by the Queen and Duchess of Cambridge, apparently in retaliation for non-violent activism.
The Queen visited KCL to open a wing of the college at Bush House, the former headquarters of BBC, now a conference space for academic activities. During the visit, 10 students reported being denied access to campus libraries and buildings, and as a result being unable to attend classes, take exams, work, and give class presentations. The students were reportedly members of political organizations including Action Palestine and Justice for Cleaners.
KLC issued a statement that the event “demanded the highest level of security,” in which they minimized movement through buildings and blocked access to some buildings. The KCL director of campus operations reportedly told students “there are a number of protesters who’ve been visible at a number of protests over last year, two years, and you were identified because you were on CCTV.” The affected students reported that the ban applied to them even in campus buildings that were not in the vicinity of Bush House.
The students are reportedly exploring legal action against KCL and KCL is reportedly going to order an independent review of its security.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the decisions prohibiting students from campus facilities in an apparent effort to retaliate for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United Kingdom is a party. While university authorities have a right to maintain security and order, they must refrain from actions that interfere with or are used to retaliate against the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.