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Group Chat - Information and updates

On this page, you will find further information and questions and answers to a number of aspects to the group chat case and the University’s response to this.
We also provide links to the statements made by the University on this matter, and updates on key developments and support and advice available to members of the University community.
Key developments – 5pm Monday 4 February

VC statement

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our community. I have today spoken to the two young men concerned and confirm that neither of them will be returning to the University.

I am continuing to listen to the views of students, staff and all members of our community here at Warwick and support them so that we can learn from this experience.”

Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor

Additional Wellbeing Support Services

There is enhanced wellbeing support service provision available to students and staff affected by issues relating to the group chat.

Wellbeing Support Services will be offering additional appointments, and working with academic departments to provide support. There will be further information on this shortly.

Questions and Answers

A number of questions have been raised regarding the University’s investigation and disciplinary processes. Where we can, we provide answers below and we will update these as far as we can.

1. Am I safe from harassment and bullying on campus?

The issues relating to threatening statements made in a group chat were an exceptional set of circumstances and we are all working very hard to ensure that we remain a safe and welcoming community for all who come to Warwick.
The University has many welfare and support mechanisms in place for students to foster a safe and respectful University community. This includes provision such as our Wellbeing Support Services and other advice and support from teams like the Counselling Service, Campus Security and Residential Life – teams who also actively foster a safe campus environment for all students, staff and visitors through their day to day (and night) work.
We also work in partnership with the Students’ Union to support the promotion of tolerance and respect, including campaigns on consent and equality.

2. What are you doing to ensure respect amongst your community on campus?

When all new students arrive at the University, the Vice-Chancellor and Students’ Union President speak to them about the University’s values – outlining that the University and Students’ Union aspire to involve students in the best experience possible whilst studying here, in an environment where the ability to voice ideas is a core value, and in which staff and students should operate with mutual respect and with the confidence that equality of opportunity is accessible to all.

The Warwick Community Respect Programme is also designed to help students understand what is expected of them as a member of the Warwick community – delivered through our Moodle online learning platform.

These programmes support our Dignity at Warwick Policy which tackles harassment and bullying by emphasising positive behaviour and the responsibilities that we all have to challenge inappropriate behaviour when we see it. Dignity at Warwick is applicable all staff and students at the University.

3. What will you do differently?

We will seek to work in partnership with the Students’ Union to more proactively promote and live our values, ensuring each and every member of the Warwick community lives, studies and works in an environment of dignity and respect.

This week is designated Wellbeing Week at the University to promote the support which is available and share key messages on wellbeing, including healthy lifestyles, physical health and activity, mental health, and financial wellbeing. The whole week is underpinned by a theme of Dignity and Respect and the impact this can have on our wellbeing. A specific day focusing on Dignity and Respect will be on Tuesday 5 February. It is also Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week and there a programme of events scheduled.

Through initiatives like this, we will actively promote tolerance and respect for all members of our community.

4. Do you care more about males than females at Warwick?

No. Within the Warwick community, we are committed to an environment in which all staff and students should operate with mutual respect and with the confidence that equality of opportunity is accessible to all.

We remain clear that the behaviour of the individuals who have been found culpable as a result of the investigation into the group chat, and in the subsequent disciplinary processes, is both abhorrent and unacceptable in any circumstance.

5. Why did the University permit an appeal?

The University has not changed its view that the behaviour of the individuals who have been found culpable as a result of the investigation into the group chat, and in the subsequent disciplinary processes, is both abhorrent and unacceptable in any circumstance.

In this case, the first disciplinary panel made a decision about the case in front of them and came to a set of judgements. Two of those individuals convicted went on to appeal against their sentence, and brought new evidence. A second panel was constituted to hear that evidence. It came to a judgement that the sentences – not the judgement of guilt – should be aligned with the penalties imposed on the other students.

In these cases, 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.

6. How will you protect the female students from the male students involved in this case?

The male students are not allowed on campus at the present time and should they return to compete their studies next year, their access to campus facilities and to learning opportunities will be carefully managed in line with conditions laid out in the initial punishment.

Support was offered to the complainants and others affected at the time and that support continues to be available. We are reaching out specifically to the complainants through our Students’ Union and our Wellbeing Support Services team to offer support.

7. What is the punishment for the male students?

Penalties were issued under the University’s disciplinary processes according to each student’s involvement in the case. These include:

  • being prohibited from living on the University campus for a fixed period of time;
  • being required to complete courses relevant to the offence committed, and confirming that they are no longer at risk of breaching the Dignity at Warwick policy;

It was also recommended the Students’ Union should not allow the students to become members of clubs or societies in future.

8. What are your disciplinary processes?

Allegations of serious student misconduct are heard by a Discipline Committee comprising senior academic staff and student officers. The hearings are chaired by an academic member of the University’s Executive Board appointed by the Vice-Chancellor with a membership of three members of academic staff and two Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers who are full members of the committee appointed by the President of the Students’ Union. The Academic Members of the Committee are appointed by the Vice-Chancellor from a panel of 20 academics appointed by the University Senate on the recommendation of the Faculty Boards.

Discipline Committee Members have a good understanding of the University’s regulatory framework, the relevant discipline regulations and associated policies on equality, diversity and student wellbeing. Committee members are able to apply good analytical skills, objectivity and sound judgement to reach impartial decisions based on the merits of each case. To this end guidance and specialist briefing sessions are provided to ensure that committee members are able to carry out their duties effectively and impartially.

The decision of a Discipline Committee can only be appealed on the grounds of (a) Material irregularity or failure of procedure, (b) Evidence of prejudice or bias, (c) Relevant evidence has come to light which could not be presented at the original hearing, (d) In light of new evidence the penalty imposed was excessive. If it is agreed by the Provost that there is a prima facia case for appeal, an Appeal Committee is called to consider the case.

The structure of the Appeal Committee is the same as for a Discipline Committee and comprises three members of Academic Staff and two Student Sabbatical Officers appointed by the President of the Students’ Union, who are full members of the committee. Appeal Committees are chaired by an Academic Member of the University’s Executive Board appointed by the Vice-Chancellor. Nobody involved in the original Discipline Hearing may take part in the Appeal Hearing other than to give evidence.

Regulation 32 sets out the full version of the disciplinary process.

9. Who made up the disciplinary and appeal panels?

In line with University procedures, the disciplinary panel was chaired by a female member of staff, three members of academic staff and two Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers.

The appeals panel was chaired by a female member of staff, three members of academic staff and two Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers.

10. Will you review your disciplinary processes?

We intend to review our disciplinary processes to ensure they are fit to cope with the complexity of such processes. This commitment was made at an earlier meeting of the University’s Senate. We will ensure sexual misconduct is considered specifically as part of our review of disciplinary processes.

11. What will you do about any potential future sexual misconduct on campus?

We will ensure sexual misconduct is considered specifically as part of our review of disciplinary processes.

We are also exploring our responses to unacceptable behaviours. We hope this will also help to reduce and prevent further issues of sexual harassment and bullying arising. The Students’ Union has, with University support, been leading on a campaign around “We get consent”; the University has partnered with Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre to ensure that we have a much better referral pathway for such incidents and this includes putting in place an independent sexual violence adviser.

Statements made by the University

Friday 1 February

Open letter from VC Stuart Croft on group chat incident

Read an open letter from Stuart Croft on the recent investigation and subsequent disciplinary action.

Thursday 31 January 2019

Statement by University of Warwick Provost Professor Christine Ennew on the recent investigation and subsequent disciplinary action