Outrage as London School of Economics installs ‘heartless’ barriers on benches to ‘stop homeless people sleeping’

The university said the change was made in the interests of safety for staff and students.

Students at the London School of Economics have expressed outrage over the university installing “heartless” barriers on benches that “prevent rough sleepers from resting” on them - writes standard.co.uk 

A petition which has amassed hundreds of signatures was launched by LSE students, who said they “whole-heartedly reject the prioritisation of aesthetics over the shelter of the most vulnerable in our society.”

Nearly 400 people have signed the change.org petition, calling for the central London university to remove the arm rests.

The university said the changes were made in the interests of safety for the staff and students.

Masters student Cara Leavey explained that the benches, in the library plaza area of the campus, used to be long, older and without any arm rests or barriers.

The 22-year-old said that she often saw rough sleepers rest on the benches overnight, as they were in a sheltered area.

She added that she did not see those making use of the benches at night cause any disturbance or offence to students or staff.

Ms Leavey said the decision to install armrests has been a recent one and said it has taken place while many undergraduates are away from campus.

“A lot of people used to sleep there at night, I used to walk by them. Nobody really used the benches in the day time, I would only see them [rough sleepers] at night," she said.

“There’s a huge homeless population around the Lincoln’s Inn Fields area. At night we would see someone [making use] of the benches. They could stretch out and they were not on the ground.”

The Inequalities and Social Sciences student said she thought the decision to install armrests was “heartless” and did not reflect the kind-hearted attitudes of most students.

She said: “I understand that the some of the benches needed some renovation around campus and it was the right decision to replace them, but what they have replaced them with is morally questionable.

“There’s so many great campaigns going on on campus, like soup kitchens and food donations. People really do care about the issue and I feel like it’s a poor reflection of how the university population feels.”

She added: “It was quite heartless, I think.”

Echoing this, the petition read: “LSE's mission statement claims to work towards the "betterment of society", but the implementation of anti-homeless benches outside the library is anything but.”

A spokesman for LSE said the decision to alter the benches was done to try and reduce anti-social behaviour.

The spokesman said: “The safety of our staff and students is paramount.

“We received 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. This is in addition to extreme anti-social behaviour in the area.

“The risk posed to the LSE community had become unacceptable and changes were made to attempt to reduce the incidence of further threats and anti-social behaviour.

"We will review these measures to determine whether they are appropriate.”

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