Report into Warwick University group chat scandal released

Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft admitted to institutional, but also personal, failings and said that there must be “profound changes” in the way the University deals with complaints.

Last year, the University of Warwick launched an investigation into a Facebook group chat in which male students sent each other sexually violent messages about fellow female students, some of which were racist and included graphic descriptions of gang rape and genital mutilation.

Since then, an independent review into the university’s student disciplinary and appeal processes had been commissioned and solicitor Dr Sharon Persaud asked to carry it out.

Two women are suing the university for discrimination and negligence over the incident, one of which was forced to sit an exam alongside one of the men involved in the group chat. She said that despite apologies, the University has not learned from the case and seems reluctant to implemented change.

In an interview with the BBC, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick Stuart Croft said that he is “genuinely sorry,” and appears to accept that they had “got it wrong,” especially by not providing enough support.

Findings of the Independent Review

In her report, published today, Dr Persaud found a “legacy of mistrust” as a result of the way in which the scandal was handled when it came to light.

She described some the university’s disciplinary processes as “very problematic”, going on to point out that students and staff seem to have lost faith in the university’s independence and impartiality.

Dr Persaud also said there was a sense the university was more concerned with preserving its reputation, rather than conducting a fair assessment of the case.

She concluded there was “a profoundly unsatisfactory outcome for almost every single person involved” in the university’s handling of the case.

Find the full report here.

University’s Response

The university has said that it “accepts the findings of the independent review and welcome its recommendations,” with a five-point plan being put in place to help reform the university’s handling and process, focusing on the themes:

  • Transparency – identifying a clear reporting structure and timetable to provide the community with timely updates on the university’s progress
  • Policies – developing and evolving policies relating to student discipline and expected behaviours
  • Process – a review of all current process and procedures relating to student disciplines against the report’s recommendations
  • Embedding – working with the community and empowering staff and students in calling out unacceptable behaviours
  • Communications – improving how the university communicates its expected behaviour of students and staff

Thus far, the university has taken some steps towards these goals, including the hiring of new staff, including two specialist external investigators and two discipline advisors

They have also updated their ‘Warwick Values’ programme for September 2019 to reflect student feedback and the creation of ‘Community Values workshops’ to be hosted during Welcome Week and Term 1 aimed at new students.