University of Warwick - Credits: Geograph

Warwick Students Suspended for Rape Threats Allowed to Return Early

CW: Sexual Assault

In the May 2018 issue, Thomas Knight for Bath Time reported the case of a group of Warwick University students who, over a group chat, among numerous racist and sexist comments, threatened to rape female students.

The chat, which was screenshotted and leaked to The Boar, Warwick’s student newspaper, prompted a University investigation, which was followed by a suspension of the students involved. Some of the suspensions included 10 year bans, as well as a certain student receiving a lifetime one. Far from showing remorse, as reported by The Tab, the students involved created another group chat in which they expressed no penance for their actions. In a statement released by University of Warwick’s Provost, Professor Christine Ennew, pointed out that the second group chat was created not long after the first one, unlike “comments on social media may suggest”.

After the defendants’ appeal to the bans, the decision was made to allow some of the students to make an early return to their classes in September 2019; this goes against a claim by a Warwick University’s spokesperson who had stated last year that “the two original complainants should have completed their degrees before any of those five individuals are due to return to campus”. The decision triggered a social media uproar, led by the hashtag #ShameOnYouWarwick. The Students’ Union President, Liam Jackson, has argued to The Boar that a review of the University’s disciplinary procedure is urgently needed. However, rebuke over the decision has been common among staff as well as students: in the evening of January 31st, Professor Emma Mason, the Head of English and Comparative Studies at the University, sent a letter to Warwick’s Vice Chancellor expressing shared dismay in her department, and called for some of the details of the appeal to be made public, while acknowledging the confidentiality of some details.

In an anonymous letter to The Boar, Warwick’s student newspaper, one of the female students targeted by the group chat spoke out about the outrage about the decision to allow for their early return; the incredible burden it brought on her already fragile mental health; and the deep feeling of fear of bumping into any of them on campus. The letter claims the University has “forgotten about the victims”, and that re-admitting the students involved in the group chats so early would mean their punishment was nothing but a “slap on the wrist”. To the shock of many, the students targeted by the group chats only became aware about the outcomes of the appeals from the media, rather than via the University or the Students’ Union: notably, Warwick SU Officers sat on the appeals panel.

Numerous calls have been made for the University of Warwick to reconsider their decision to allow the students’ early return. A petition calling for their early return to be overturned has gathered over 750 signatures.

Update: The University of Warwick has released a statement stressing that the students have been found culpable following the investigation, and apologising for having upset members of the community and beyond. However, they added that details of the appeals process could not be disclosed due to confidentiality.

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