Tuesday, 19 March, nearly simultaneously to the Queen and Duchess of Cambridge’s ‘opening’ of King’s College London’s Bush House, tens of students took to Twitter to state that their card access to the building had been denied, reportedly without warning.
Many of the students were active members of Action Palestine, Justice 4 Cleaners, and Intersectional Feminist Society. Some students reported being unable to sit exams as a result.
Had an exam today and being the studious guy I am showed up an hour early only to find my card was blocked and I couldn’t get in the building, is the queen visiting a good enough reason for potentially preventing a student sitting a COMPULSORY test???@KingsCollegeLon @kclsu
— Uyghur维吾尔 | Asif ⚒ (@AsifkWHU) March 19, 2019
In what was likely a response to the outrage, King’s tweeted the following statement: “We had an event today which demanded the highest level of security and we had to minimise movement through buildings for security reasons. At times some of our buildings were not accessible.”
We had an event today which demanded the highest level of security and we had to minimise movement through buildings for security reasons. At times some of our buildings were not accessible.
— King's College London (@KingsCollegeLon) March 19, 2019
Through random connections and sheer luck, I found myself yesterday with a last minute gig assisting King’s Venues for the event. Through even more randomness and luck, I was tasked with holding the doors for the Queen and Duchess of Cambridge four times during the two hours they were there: once during their arrival, twice as they entered and exited the 4th Floor trading room, and once during their departure.
Four times, I was close enough to the Queen to poke her without fully extending my elbow. I was also close enough to Kate Middleton to make awkward eye contact, forcing her into a grimace-y smile. Yet despite all this, and the supposed “highest level of security,” I was not aware at any point of being vetted for the job, or even interviewed.
I got the opportunity through the temp work I do for King’s Business School alongside my degree, mainly as a cloakroom assistant or receptionist for events. Last week, when my boss casually mentioned that King’s Venues, the events’ organisers, were looking for extra help for the Queen’s visit, I eagerly pursued the offer, both for the London Living Wage I’d be paid and the chance of glimpsing the monarch.
Even though I’ve never done any work for King’s Venues, no one interviewed me for the position nor ran any sort of background check that I was aware of. I asked my boss what would happen if I showed up in a ‘Fuck the Monarchy’ t-shirt. “You would be sniped,” he joked. My friend asked me if I’d curtsy. “Def no,” I said. “My knee will crack.”
When I showed up on Tuesday, one minute late and with hair that had not survived the Central Line, cops and security were swarming the building, yet no one checked my bag, asked for my ID, or questioned me when I said I was there to man the cloakroom and the doors. Nor did anyone question my deservedness for the job when I gave an involuntary snort every time someone said “Her Majesty” (I’m sorry but that expression sounds so incongruous with the 21st century).
At one point, when running down the stairs from the 4th Floor to get the door one last time, a security guard moved the velvet rope (denying students access to the ground floor) aside for me without hesitation. No words were exchanged: apparently being a white woman in a cheap skirtsuit was authority enough.
All of this is to say that, while I do not know what caused some students to be denied access to Bush House, I do not buy the College’s excuse that they were simply operating under the highest level of security. For all King’s Venues knew, I could’ve been a raging anti-Monarchist or an American patriot still embittered by the tyranny of King George III. While I’d typically assume “highest level of security” to imply vigorous background checks of anyone in spitting distance of the Queen, for King’s this did not even necessitate a five-minute interview. Apparently my lack of activity on the Justice 4 Cleaners campaign was enough.