Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick Stuart Croft has said that the two male students who made rape threats in a group chat will not be returning to the University, despite a previous decision that would have allowed them to return to campus to continue with their courses
Amongst a number of individuals that threatened to rape fellow students – using misogynistic, racist and anti-semitic language in a group chat – one was given a lifetime ban, while two were originally banned for 10 years and another two excluded for a year.
The University then changed its mind on 31st January after an appeal, which saw Warwick’s disciplinary panel decide to allow the two men with decade-long bans to return after just a year.
This u-turn would have allowed the two male students to return to study on campus at the same time as the victims they had threatened.
After widespread protest condemning the reduced sentences, Warwick has since confirmed that the two men whose suspensions were reduced shall not be returning to the University.
In the days following the decision to allow them to re-join, the University received widespread backlash, with alumni, MPs and academic staff writing to the institution to express their upset over the decision.
The head of University of Warwick’s English department, Professor Emma Mason, addressed Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft in a letter that read: ‘We wish to express strong and renewed support for those students harmed by these posts, abhorrence at the contents of the posts, and a deep concern about the decision to reduce the terms of suspension.’
There was notable upset on social media too, with many users choosing to name the students who had made the threats, and some even included screenshots from the group chat in question.
An open letter, penned by one of the women targeted in the group chat, was published by The Boar, the Warwick University’s student newspaper, on Wednesday 30th of January.
Addressing the University’s lenient and reduced sentencing of the group, the female student (who has remained anonymous) wrote: ‘I feel terrified at the prospect of having these boys in my seminars and lectures, as they sit there feeling guilt-free.
‘Knowing that I may have to come face to face with them again just to continue my education is unacceptable’ she added.
After it was revealed the two students were being given permission to return, a petition directed at the Vice-Chancellor gained 70,000 signatures protesting the decision.
It was revealed shortly after by Croft that the two men had themselves decided not to return to Warwick.
Students challenged the University over their lack of involvement in the decision-making process when it was revealed that the two men made the choice not to return rather than the final decision coming from the University.
In light of this outcome, hundreds of students took to the streets to protest the University’s handling of the incident on Wednesday 6th of February, attending a ‘Reclaim Our University’ demonstration on the University’s campus.
Organisers of the protest posted the following statement on Facebook: ‘The University is sending a message (that) this behaviour is acceptable, and the rehabilitation of those who glorify sexual violence is more important than the safety and education of those they seek to attack.’
Elliot Mulligan, co-editor of The Boar, explained: ‘Students feel the wrong decision was made in the first place so there is still a lot of anger about that.’
With thousands of students still unhappy with the University’s overall response to the situation, the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Warwick, Sir David Normington, said that there will be ‘a thorough, external and independent review’ of the institution’s disciplinary processes.
Liam Jackson, President of the Warwick Students Union, commented on the ‘considerable unease’ still felt by the students after the appeals. He said, ‘We remain shocked by the content of the group chat, and our stance continues to be that sexism, racism and oppression of any kind have no place within our community.’
In the days following these events, a number of posts defending the Warwick students’ group chat appeared on the Brumfess Facebook page, which is an anonymous confessions page run by University of Birmingham students.
These comments were condemned by UoB’s Guild of Students’ Women’s Officers, Alif Trevathan and Holly Battrick, who posted a statement on their Facebook page.
They said: ‘“Jokes” like those are a perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and rape culture that can, and often does, lead to violence against women and minorities. They normalise these kinds of violence, and must not be tolerated.’
After attending last week’s protests in Warwick, the Women’s Officers added: ‘All students deserve to feel safe on campus, not exclusively those protected already by their privilege.’