By Iona Middleton
In 2018, screenshots of a Warwick University group chat were publicised and investigated. Upon inspection, racial slurs such as ‘love Hitler, hate n****s’, and jokes about sexual assault, for example ‘What do we do with girls? RAAAAAAAAAPE’ were discovered. The university acted quickly, issuing one boy with a lifetime ban from campus, two ten-year bans and various other disciplinary processes.
They published a statement expressing their anger over the incident. They stated that they “are committed to ensuring a working and learning environment in which all University members are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, and where bullying and harassment are not tolerated”.
However, in the most recent updates to the story, there were reports that two of the students would be returning this September. However, after uproar from the student population and a stream of online anger, using #ShameOnYouWarwick, the university Vice Chancellor announced that neither students would be returning.
It is often believed that if you are not part of a solution, you are part of a problem. There is no longer neutrality in this world. Warwick University’s incapability of being part of the solution has caused them a hugely negative media storm. Not only did the suggestion of an early re-acceptance of these boys imply that their education is more important than another students’ safety, it also sent a clear message: that if you are wealthy, white and male, you can get away with almost anything.
The decision to exclude the boys from the university campus in 2018 was the correct thing to do. This form of language is indicative of their capabilities and possibly their intent in the future. When a person has such obviously cruel intentions it baffles me that they would be allowed to roam a university campus so freely. While the university has claimed to be listening to the voices of the students, many have claimed that the decision to not return to Warwick was likely a decision made by the boys rather than staff. It seems as though even a discussion of their early return is completely unreasonable and has caused a feeling of anger and unjust from students who merely want to feel safe on their own campus.
Hundreds of students marched last Wednesday at the Reclaim Our University march, which called for a lifelong ban for the men involved and an official inquiry into the university’s handling of the complaints. Their reaction seems absolutely necessary. While the official statements continue to state that they understand and are listening to the opinions of students, recent activity suggests that Warwick needs to improve their ‘listening’ for the welfare of the students. It could easily be argued that weakness in fulfilling punishments for speech that supports rape adds to a growing concern among young people that rape culture is developing in educational institutions where the only concern should be teaching and learning. By showing any sympathy to these boys and considering their return, Warwick University also shows sympathy to their opinions and beliefs. Their words needed to be reprimanded and a full punishment served to show others that what they did was wrong. How can we prevent these incidents from happening if there appears to be no consequences?
Warwick University has a duty to its students, past, present and future. It has a reputation to uphold. A reputation which is currently in the process of being seriously tarnished. A person’s education should never be compromised because they do not feel safe on their own campus. Warwick University’s recent attitude has been weak, dishonourable and shameful.