The University remains clear that the behaviour of the individuals who have been found culpable as a result of the investigation, and in the subsequent student disciplinary processes, is both abhorrent and unacceptable in any circumstance. The behaviour shown by the individuals concerned goes against all of our values as a community. We are sorry that the decision as a result of our processes has upset so many members of our own community and beyond.
The University started an investigation as soon as we were made aware of the content of the first group chat. It was that investigation that uncovered a second group chat, and both were then investigated at the same time. The second chat is not a more recent event as some comments on social media may suggest.
The police were consulted at the very start of the process and they reviewed the material. They decided that there were no matters in which they could bring any charges and that they were content for the University investigation to proceed.
At the conclusion of the investigation, disciplinary hearings were held for a number of the students involved in the two chat groups. These resulted in a range of sanctions being imposed.
Like all other universities and public bodies, we allow appeals to be made against the outcomes of disciplinary process. These have to be heard by a different panel with no overlap with those involved in the first hearing.
The appeals panel gave each case thorough and detailed consideration. In neither case was the appeal about the issue of culpability (this was not challenged and the students concerned accepted that aspect of the original decision). Rather, the appeals panel focused instead on the scale of the penalties. As a result of those hearings two adjustments were made.
Privacy considerations mean that we are not able to disclose the specific details on which the decisions were made; however the panel reached the view that there were clear reasons to require that the punishments imposed should be comparable across all of those individuals sanctioned by the major disciplinary process.
As a consequence, all those students for whom the major disciplinary cases were proven have broadly comparable penalties, and those penalties were set to allow the complainants to complete their studies before the disciplined students were given the opportunity to return (and there are a range of conditions imposed on that return). The penalties imposed combine direct punishment for the deeply offensive and threatening comments made during the chats, future behavioural restrictions and a requirement to engage in processes to enable them to learn from their past unacceptable behaviours.
We would like to reiterate that this behaviour goes completely against our values as a community.
Thursday 31 January 2019