Random bag searches, safety patrols and testing of unattended drinks are to be introduced at University of St Andrews student venues after a surge in concern about drink spiking, with reported incidents in four university cities across Scotland.
The university’s student association has announced a series of measures at their four campus bar venues, including training for staff on spiking, new signs that highlight what to do if you think you or someone else has been spiked, and sourcing test strips for common spiking drugs to use on drinks or urine.
A number of other student unions have also pledged action, with Glasgow University’s four student bodies promising tighter security and increased surveillance at their venues, which include bars and nightclubs.
Anna-Ruth Cockerham, director of wellbeing and equality for St Andrews students’ association, emphasised a “zero-tolerance approach” to drink spiking. “Anyone found to be spiking in our venues will be banned from our premises for life and referred to the university and the police.”
Cockerham told the Guardian the new policies, which were announced on Wednesday after a spate of social media reports of women, many of them students, being injected with needles, had been overwhelmingly positive. “People were looking to the student association and university to take a strong stance.”
Stirling Union bar has likewise put up signs encouraging students to speak to staff if they have any concerns and offering test strips if required. In a message to students signed by the union president, Nela Cadiñanos Gonzalez, and other officers, they emphasised that the responsibility for these incidents falls squarely on the perpetrator. “It’s important to remember that when things go wrong it is never the fault of the victim. There is no grey area when it comes to consent, and it’s vital that our student community knows this.”
On Wednesday, Police Scotland confirmed that officers were investigating of reports about spiking via injection from Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow, as well as a drink spiking report in Stirling.
The force emphasised it took all reports seriously and encouraged anyone who believed they had been a victim of spiking in any form to contact them. A man was arrested in Nottingham as police investigated reports of women being injected with needles on nights out in the past fortnight.
Ella McCabe, president of Glasgow University’s students representative council, said student unions felt a sense of responsibility with female members in particular nervous about recent social media reports of spiking by injection.
“Gender-based violence is most common among 18- to 24-year-olds. While it’s encouraging to see Police Scotland and university institutions putting out similar messages, student bodies recognise we need to use our voice on this, particularly if young people don’t have trust in those institutions.”
“Trust in the police for some is tainted in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard case, but there is a broader fear of reporting, because there’s still so much stigma and fear that you won’t be believed.”
Groups from more than 60 universities around the UK have joined an online campaign started by Edinburgh University student Martha Williams, calling for boycotts of nightclubs one day next week to highlight the issue of women’s safety.