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‘Shocked and disgusted’: Departments at Warwick are slamming the uni for their group chat response

English, Classics, Languages and Politics have all condemned the university’s decision

Three Warwick Uni departments have written to the university condemning their decision to allow several students who threatened to rape and mutilate their female peers in a group chat back on campus.

Yesterday Warwick Uni's English Department expressed their "shock and disgust" at the decision. Today the Classics and Ancient History department said they are "shocked and saddened", followed by the Languages department who have declared their "strong and unwavering support for the women hurt".

In a letter to students, Head of Politics Juanita Elias Politics expressed their "disappointment with the decision taken". All departments have called on the university to be more transparent in their decision to reduce punishments.

The English department's letter, addressed to vice-chancellor Stuart Croft, expresses the department's "shared dismay" at hearing that several students who had been barred from campus for their participation in the group chat have now successfully appealed to reduce their 10 year campus ban. The students in question are now due to return to Warwick next year.

Messages in the group chat, which made reference to female students at Warwick, included "sometimes it's fun to just go wild and rape 100 girls" and "rape the whole flat to teach them all a lesson."

Professor Emma Mason, the English department's head, says staff are "especially appalled" at the decision in the context of the uni's "renewed commitment to wellbeing and respect."

The letter goes on to criticise the university for a lack of transparency in deciding that the ban was to be lifted, as well as asking why they backtracked on their original decision.

The English department are the first to speak out from within the university, following the hashtag #shameonyouwarwick trending on Twitter this afternoon.

They echo the sentiment expressed by an anonymous female student who yesterday published an open letter about her experience as one of the girls discussed in the group chat, asking "Who are you protecting Warwick?"

The full text of the Warwick English department's letter is as follows:

Dear Stuart,

I am writing as Head of English and Comparative Literary Studies to express the department’s shared dismay at the news regarding those students who were banned from Warwick for ten years for posting online rape threats to other students accompanied by anti-Semitic and racist comments and hate speech related to disability.

We understand from several articles published in the media today, as well as the trending hashtag #shameonyouwarwick, that the suspended students have appealed their term of suspension, and that the University has consequently reduced the length of their bans to one year.

Staff and students in my department are united in our shock and disgust at this decision. We wish to express strong and renewed support for those students harmed by these posts, abhorrence of the contents of the posts, and a deep concern about the decision to reduce the term of suspension.

We are especially appalled that this decision has been made in the context of the University’s ethics code and renewed commitment to wellbeing and respect.

We suggest that the decision contravenes this commitment. We ask for urgent clarification as to why a suspension of ten years was initially thought appropriate, and why now a suspension of one year is thought sufficient.

While we accept that the colleagues who made this decision may be in possession of confidential information that cannot be made public (as noted in the Provost’s online statement today), we do ask that the University openly share some of the reasons for the new decision without compromising the appeals process.

Yours sincerely,

Emma Mason

The full text of the Warwick Classics and Ancient History department's letter is as follows:

I am writing as the Head of Department of Classics and Ancient History on behalf of our Department to express our deep concern at the recent media reports concerning the penalties imposed on students who had posted rape threats and hate speech about other Warwick students. Such comments are totally in opposition to our Departmental values and the University’s commitment to equality, diversity and dignity for all students and staff.

Given this, the decision to reduce the penalties originally applied to a one year suspension is hard to understand and has shocked and saddened us. We would like to express our deep sympathy and support with the students who were targeted by these posts, and abhorrence at such behaviour. While we recognise that there may be confidential information which you cannot disclose about the case, we urgently request an explanation of this matter to all staff and students. We remain committed to the safety and well being of our students and to ensuring a campus environment that fosters development and learning for all.

The full text of the Warwick Politics department's letter is as follows:

Dear all,

Many of you, your lecturers, and professional support staff in PAIS have been in touch with me expressing concerns about the University’s recent handling of the appeal by students involved in the ‘group chat’ case.

Like many of you I would like to express my disappointment with the decision taken, in which PAIS had no involvement. Please let me assure you all that PAIS as a department unreservedly condemns hate speech and threats of sexual violence on campus. As such we will be joining other departments and the SU in seeking further clarification on this decision by the University and how it proposes to prioritise the safety and dignity of our students.

I am also happy to hear from you about concerns and to pass these on to University senior management. I can be contacted on [email protected] Justin Greaves, Director of Student Experience and Progression in PAIS, Ben Richardson, PAIS Senior Tutor/Director of Wellbeing and I are also available to meet with you in person to discuss your concerns. The Department treats the safety and dignity of its students as the utmost priority and I, along with Justin and Ben, will also be liaising with the SSLCs to ensure that student concerns are heard.

In addition to these comments, I would like to provide this further statement of policy drawn up by the departmental Senior Tutor and Director of Wellbing Ben Richardson:

The Department of Politics of International Studies (PAIS) has an Equality and Diversity Committee. Part of our role is to promote a safe and inclusive institutional culture, consistent with the Dignity at Warwick policy that all staff and students at Warwick are obliged to follow. With this in mind, we thought it a good idea to remind everyone of the University services that support this goal. These include:

Wellbeing Support Services focused on mental health, disability and counselling

Hate crime prevention and support

Independent Sexual Violence Adviser

The Students’ Union also has an Advice Centre Team who are able to assist with such issues.

Any concerns about the institutional culture in PAIS can be brought to the Equality and Diversity Committee for us to discuss. Please email Prof Shirin Rai, chair of this committee ([email protected] ).

Best wishes

Juanita Elias, Head of Department