Don’t let bureaucracy get you down: another look at the Meadows

Finally, the Edinburgh summer is approaching. The necessity to wear four layers, huddle in groups and tiptoe through the darkness in the Meadows is receding. With summer comes exciting events such as the Meadows festival, Gung Ho! (the largest 5k obstacle course in the world) and, of course, tennis and golf – all hosted in the Meadows. This humble expanse of grassland in the south of the city, will become a community space, an open space, but not necessarily a safe space.

My previous article suggested that, in regards to the undeniable and all-too-regular crime in the Meadows, any solution was simply unfeasible. However, this opinion is misleading. It is not impossible by any standards to employ better security measures, and my article was far from a lone voice in the dark. This is an ongoing back-and-forth issue between the university, the community and those individual groups trying to activate change stretching across decades. 

One such individual contacted the university, only to receive the reply that if an agreement were to be reached amongst all community groups and users of the park on measures to improve safety, the uiniversity might be able to identify a contribution to the council’s funding of this. Essentially, this is a very verbose delegation of responsibility to the users of the park and Edinburgh council. Hypothetically then, if this were to happen – reluctantly – the Meadows would enter the university’s radar. Succinctly, this is nonsense. The university has a responsibility for the welfare of its students. It cannot keep ignoring the giant chunk of land adjoining the university, and its status as a hotbed of assaults and muggings (if interested, search the Freedom of Information requests about the assaults in the Meadows; they are accessible online and supply some wincing statistics).

The issue is that the university is a huge, mechanistic organisation, where issues are shuttled around. For example, if the Students’ Association and community programmes do not take action with issues like this, one could expect the university’s General Council to acknowledge them, at least. However, note that when the issue was raised in a General Council meeting in February 2018, the council’s response cited the university’s campaigns to spread awareness about the issue, through crime prevention talks during Welcome Week and their affiliations with neighbour schemes. This was positive in some sense, as the university should not be criticised for their intentions to spread awareness. But this sounds like the council is leaning on the crutch of the university’s duty to inform the students. Education is no substitution for action. Rather than informing others about injustice, should we not show respect to those affected, and fight injustice?

Tracing the issue back, it could be argued that where there are parks, there is crime; that it is inevitable, but not excusable. This would be a highly dangerous way of thinking. There is not a single person in the university who is not affected – however indirectly – by the dangers posed by the Meadows. Let’s not stay in the dark about these issues, and be beaten by bureaucracy. 

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