Warwick Uni finally apologise for mistakes over their handling of the group chat scandal
An official report said: ‘There was a profoundly unsatisfactory outcome for almost every single person involved’
The official investigation into Warwick Uni's handling of the group chat scandal has found there was a "profoundly unsatisfactory outcome for almost every single person involved".
Warwick University have apologised in the wake of the independent report, which was commissioned in February after ongoing national coverage of the scandal.
After the group chat – in which male students threatened to rape some of their female friends – came to light, the investigation was dogged by scandal, with the reversal of some sanctions, and widespread anger at the university's handling.
Produced by Dr Sharon Persaud, a criminal defence solicitor, the report makes recommendations about how to reform the disciplinary process, all of which the university has accepted.
The report has revealed new details about Warwick's investigation into the group chat
One boy quit uni before the disciplinary process began. However, the university still sent him a letter saying he would have been expelled and that he was banned from campus.
The two boys suspended for a year weren't allowed to live on campus or join societies. They were also made to provide evidence they were no longer a threat to the "Dignity at Warwick" policy. One of those boys had to go on a course.
Plus, at some disciplinary hearings, some of the boys' parents were there.
The report's findings
Making comment on a range of aspects of the scandal, Persaud's report highlighted some key areas.
It noted the widespread view that "the University had been more concerned with its own reputational interests than in a fair or just assessment of the case."
Persaud added: "I should say that this view was not uncommon amongst the wider groups of people I interviewed."
With the uni's actions, however, Persaud was "certain that all the actions taken and decisions made were made conscientiously, in good faith and with the best of intentions."
Persaud summed up her findings by saying: "The university processes need to be more transparent and better understood –which means that there is less likely to be misinformation and suspicion."
She wrote: "There has to be a way to discuss difficult disciplinary issues (such as what the sanction in this case should have been) in a more constructive and less fracturing way – which means, in turn, that the underlying nature and philosophy of the University disciplinary processes has to be broadly agreed, clearer and more intelligible."
Persaud made five main recommendations on how Warwick can improve things
The report recommended five main improvements, which Warwick have accepted.
Transparency: The university must give regular updates on cases to those involved.
Policies: Make clear the university's disciplinary policy and the principles behind it .
Process: Investigators in sexual misconduct cases must have training. The press officer in charge of Warwick’s reputation was also in charge of the group chat investigation.
Embedding: Create a clear code of conduct which students can understand.
Communications: With the mix of confidential information and need for public clarity involved in the aftermath of the scandal, the university must figure out how to communicate clearly.
On their part, Warwick have accepted all the report's recommendations, and said they will report on their progress four times a year.
Stuart Croft, Warwick's Vice Chancellor, said: "We accept the findings of Dr Persaud’s review and welcome its recommendations. We acknowledge that we made some mistakes and we apologise for this, including how we communicated with the victims.
"Sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind is completely unacceptable and we are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the Warwick community. We are determined that, by continuing to work together with our students, staff and wider Warwick community, we will build on the steps we have already taken, deliver our action plan and report back regularly on our progress.
"We want to go even further than Dr Persaud’s recommendations, so that we can learn from these experiences, improve and develop our processes, and offer what we have learned to other universities.
"As part of this, we know we must also be clearer about what our university community stands for, to cultivate an environment where prejudice and socially unacceptable behaviour of any kind are never tolerated, and where students and staff have pride in, and commitment to, our values. Alongside our action plan for implementing the review’s recommendations, we are developing and implementing an ongoing programme to ensure that everyone in the Warwick community, past, present and future, knows and supports what we stand for."