Warwick Uni Under Fire Over Response To Rape Chat Group

31 January 2019, 16:11 | Updated: 31 January 2019, 16:21

Warwick Uni

A university has been accused of handing a "slap on the wrist" to four students involved in a Facebook group chat which threatened rape.

The University of Warwick has declined to confirm reports that two male students will be allowed to return to campus after having 10-year bans reduced to one year on appeal.

The university launched an inquiry last year after suspending 11 students over a series of online messages, including a post which stated: "Sometimes it's fun to just go wild and rape 100 girls."

Racist and anti-Semitic posts were also cited in formal complaints made to the university, which is reported to have handed one student a life-time ban.

Four others excluded by the university - including the two undergraduates whose bans have been reduced - are reported to have been told they can return to campus in September 2019.

In an open letter to the university's student newspaper The Boar, one woman targeted by the chat group described the one-year bans as a "source of shame".

The unnamed woman wrote: "Words cannot describe the heartbreak that overcame myself and other victims.

"We were discussed so violently. We were humiliated, as if for sport.

"Racism, sexism, sexually explicit descriptions, ableism, threats of sexual assault, and homophobia. Are these issues on which Warwick has nothing to say?

"Does the university want its students to feel that such threats, comments and 'jokes' are acceptable and normal? This is the message sent out by the recent decision to allow the perpetrators back onto campus next year."

After claiming that allowing the men to return so soon meant they have had nothing but a slap on the wrist, the woman said of the university: "Most importantly though, you have forgotten about and humiliated the victims.

Questioning whether staff would be comfortable teaching the men, the letter writer, who has suffered depression and anxiety, asked: "You expect prospective students to continue applying to a university that prioritises them over those of us who do not feel safe?

"It is a source of shame for past, present and future Warwick alumni that you lack the courage to stand by us."

The university said disciplinary hearings were held for a number of the students involved in two chat groups, resulting in a range of sanctions being imposed.

All students for whom major disciplinary cases were proven had received penalties which meant they could not return before the complainants had completed their studies, the university said.

The University of Warwick's Provost, Christine Ennew, said: "The behaviour of the individuals who have been found culpable as a result of the investigation, and in the subsequent disciplinary processes, is both abhorrent and unacceptable in any circumstance."

Ms Ennew added: "Like all other universities and public bodies, we allow appeals to be made against the outcomes of disciplinary process.

"The appeals panel gave each case thorough and detailed consideration. In neither case was the appeal about the issue of culpability. Rather, the appeals panel focused instead on the scale of the penalties. As a result of those hearings two adjustments were made.

"Privacy considerations mean that we are not able to disclose the specific details on which the decisions were made.

"The penalties imposed combine direct punishment for the deeply offensive and threatening comments made during the chats, future behavioural restrictions and a requirement to engage in processes to enable them to learn from their past unacceptable behaviours."