11 Warwick students temporarily suspended after group chat exposed
A group of 11 students at the University of Warwick have been given precautionary suspensions following an official complaint to the University. The complaint came about as a result of a group chat in which discussion included raping and sexually assaulting other students from the University.
(Trigger warnings: sexual violence, rape, racism, paedophilia, FGM)
In addition to a number of conversations about sexually assaulting other students, the chat is alleged to include racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and ableist language, as well as claims of paedophilic activity. The University’s investigation into the matter is still ongoing.
This article includes screenshots of the alleged chat that have been presented as evidence in the investigation. The names of all involved have been redacted.
Ninety-eight screenshots from the chat were submitted to the University as part of the complaint.
Those handed precautionary suspensions include senior members of several society execs, both academic and sporting. Among those temporarily suspended are alleged to be social secretaries, tour secretaries, a careers officer and a treasurer, both outgoing and incoming.
As part of their exec roles, several of the students represented Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) in the context of their society’s charity work.
In messages seen by The Boar, there are multiple references to rape. One screen shot reveals there were 19 results for the word “rape” in the group chat.
Under one search for “rape”, the chat members discuss raping another female individual and her friends.
In another exchange, one individual says he will rape a girl in his flat. Another chat member responds saying that this “Wouldn’t even be unfair”.
A separate screenshot appears to show a member of the chat posting a screenshot of a student talking about their experience of sexual assault on social media, followed by a laughing emoji.
Another screenshot shows one chat member talking of having “surprise sex” with freshers. In another exchange, this individual discusses having sex with a student in Year 10.
The same individual makes multiple references to rape throughout the screenshots. In another exchange, the same individual states they will “pull anything with/without a pulse”. In a separate screenshot, this individual also claims “What do we do with girls? RAAAAAAAAAPE.”
The individuals also discuss which female they would most like to ‘double foot’, with one chat member stating that the female “deserves hair straighteners on her flaps”.
Another screenshot from the chat reveals a conversation which includes offensive and racist language, with individuals claiming they “love Hitler” and calls for a “crusade for racism”.
The screenshots show that for a period of time the chat was named ‘Fuck Women, Disrespect them all’ with the nicknames of several members altered to ‘Grenfell’ and ‘Taxi Jew’.
In another conversation, two chat members discuss another female individual who cannot be named. In this conversation, they also talk about Derrick Bird and ‘Fritzl’. Derrick Bird killed 12 people and injured 11 in a shooting spree in Cumbria in 2010. The Fritzl case concerns Josef Fritzl, who held his daughter captive and repeatedly raped her for twenty-four years.
The Boar has also been provided with evidence that several of the students who have been temporarily suspended separately acknowledged the existence of the group chat.
When originally contacted by The Boar to ask whether students had been suspended, the University stated: “From time to time the University will issue a precautionary suspension to a student or students while a potential disciplinary matter is being investigated.
“The University would not normally comment further on such a suspension until the relevant processes had concluded.”
The Boar will be following the investigation and will update you on any further progress.
If you have been affected by any of these issues, please contact Wellbeing Support or Warwick SU Advice Centre. https://warwick.ac.uk/services/supportservices/ warwicksu.com/advice
Alternatively, you can also contact the Coventry Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (CRASAC) on 02476 277777 – the helpline is open Monday-Friday, 10am-2pm, and Monday and Thursday evenings from 6-8pm. If phoning outside these hours, you can leave a voicemail message for someone from the helpline to phone you back.
This film recently toured UK campuses – I think it’s relevant. We won’t change attitudes only by outing private offensive chat, we need to start a bigger conversation about what is appropriate masculine behaviour.
I would hope that my words haven’t been misconstrued by people, I thought I had made it clear that I don’t condone the content of anything that has been said in this instance. Just in case, I’ll restate it: I do not support the racist or sexist language used by these people in question; I do not agree with the bigoted or discriminatory views held by these individuals or others; I do not believe that these opinions make society better and wish, in an ideal world, that nobody held these views or opinions, privately or publicly. Also, as I mentioned in my first comment on this article, in this particular case I believe that the direct threats made towards named individuals, despite being made in a ‘private’ chat, should be treated seriously and investigated fully now that they have been brought to light.
For me, this case is not simply a ‘freedom of speech’ debate – it is a potentially criminal matter, we have yet to see. However, it does unequivocally feed into a discourse on our civil rights, our freedom of speech and thought, and our right to privacy. Note: these are not ‘black or white’ issues, and there is not necessarily a ‘side’ to be taken, as some seem to suggest. It is possible, in my opinion, to disagree with an individual’s views and simultaneously support the right to hold controversial or morally questionable opinions. (To clarify, that is *not* to suggest that you can make direct rape threats carte blanche without consequence.)
This is where I am trying to further the discussion. To me, there is a worrying, not altogether uncommon opinion that all morally questionable opinions and statements should be ‘outed’ for trial by public opinion. There seems to be a belief that people *should* face public scorn and punishment for controversial statements made, regardless of platform. There seems to be a general conflation of what is ‘morally wrong’ and ‘legally wrong’, which is worrying as morality is only ever subjective where the law should be objective (itself a whole other debate!). These opinions are not merely hypothetical either: look to the petition circulating demanding how these individuals *should* be punished; look to the not uncommon belief that people *should* be publicly shamed for things on social media; look to some of the comments on this very article.
I hope this has clarified my position. It simply worries me that certain people would be more than happy to sacrifice their rights to privacy, to freedom of speech and thought (NOT freedom of hate crime OR freedom from consequence) simply because of the prevailing moral attitude of the day. I think you are then in danger of being complicity in – even advocating for – movements towards the kind of society where authoritarianism begins to take hold.
It’s a debate that I feel we desperately need to have as a society. Social media, the prevalence of big data in our lives and the blurring of public and private boundaries: it all seems to have overtaken us so quickly in the last 10 years without us ever really establishing the precise nature of our relationship. And I feel strongly that we mustn’t be complacent simply in the light of highly emotive issues such as this case.
Dominic: I hope that you truly are looking to advance the discussion – be wary that this is not how your comments are perceived. Although I expect you know this, and perhaps are unfazed.
I am a firm believer in freedom of speech. The age old “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” springs to mind though. Still, in my mind, open discussion is the only way forward.
However I don’t believe this is a “freedom of speech” debate…
I am also a firm believer in being accountable for your actions. So by all means, “banter” away. But please do not be surprised if those around you are intimidated, are offended, and choose to express this, whether it was intended as a joke or not.
To my point on being a defeatist, part of the problem – I note your comment “outing private messages won’t stop them from having them”. Whilst I don’t disagree with this entirely, I would argue that outing these conversations is progressive. Accepting these types of comments, made so privately on the World Wide Web (?!), because they are meant in jest, gives way to those who make the same comments without humour behind them.
Maybe that is a bit of a leap… but if this incident, this public shaming of a few foolish students, children really, can make just one person reconsider a comment (sexist, racist, or otherwise), be it made publicly or privately, then I would consider that a success.
Put quite simply, the actions of these students do not make the society “better for everyone”. They do not make it better for anyone.
These boys said highly emotive things – criticising the emotional response of the public to them makes you part of the problem.
I’m not sure whether you’re a low-effort troll or just a bit naive, but you do understand that data protection laws do exist in the U.K. right? You remember the recent scandal with Facebook misusing people’s data? Well, doxxing people and rounding them up based on their IP addresses would be a comparative breach of data privacy and could potentially land the university, the SU, the Boar or indeed any other entity whom you seem to believe is going to perform these actions with a huge, reputation-shattering lawsuit.
If you are simply uninformed about this sort of thing I would suggest you read up on data protection laws and why we have them in place. If you are a troll (as I suspect you might be) then quit the act, it’s not working.
To all those little boys (rape apologists and racists) commenting here thinking you can get away with it. Your email addresses are known to the Boar and your IP, location and unique user IDs are known to Warwick IT. It’s just a matter of time before this information is submitted to the University and you get what you deserve. Say goodbye to your ‘futures’ too.
If you put Josh’s comments as someone who is commenting on the Labour Party and Anti semitic scandal then they are no longer the comments of a racist but of someone who is commenting on a news story with his friends. He was just taking the mickey out of Corbyn! Why else would he mention Corbyn.
What they did was wrong and they will be held to account in accordance with University regulations. But I’d also like to point out that The Boar has fallen foul of The University of Warwick Wellbeing Policy (found here: https://warwick.ac.uk/services/equalops/dignityatwarwick/dignity__-_may_2018_-pdf_-_as_on_the_web.pdf). Section 4.2 of the Policy (4. Cyber bullying and the inappropriate use of social networking sites) states the following:
4.2 It is important for staff and students to adhere to the following in relation to online behaviour:
Do not share, comment upon or re-tweet somebody else’s original post/comment/tweet if the original is or
could be considered to be offensive or inappropriate.
Just leaving this here. If you’re invoking this as a policy (as an entity), you too should also be held to account. It also just shows how ridiculous certain elements of the policy are, if you get punished for reporting on it, but “hey, that’s the policy!” I can’t wait to see the editors of The Boar and The Tab hand themselves in – they seem to be passionately invoking this policy left right and centre, definitely not using this for advertising revenue or clickbait gain at all ….
In response to Patti:
I’m not a “white boy”, I’m black. I’m also not a rape apologist, and I’m not too sure how you got that from the comment I wrote. This is obviously a very emotional issue, and as I said in my original comment it really personally hurts to see racist views expressed by anyone, or indeed sexist views, homophobic views, or any form of bigotry or discrimination. But suggesting that we should be trying to police language is seriously worrying, potentially way more damaging to our civil liberties, our very fabric of society, than any individual case of discrimination could ever be.
I’ve been racially abused, and I once nearly got beaten up in a club by two guys using racial slurs (thankfully a few years ago now and not at Warwick). I haven’t ever been threatened with sexual violence, so I can’t say I have direct experience with that, but I like to think I know how shitty these kinds of dehumanising comments can make you feel. But I would never – never – wish to see those two dickheads tried for sending racist messages to each other or their mates.
If they had punched me I would want the book thrown at them for assault. If I could go back, I’d want to report them for their hate speech towards me. But as strange as it might sound to you I would defend their right to make racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic or otherwise remarks in private. Not condone it, not defend the content of their speech, or protect them from appropriate consequences. But their right to say it? I would defend that.
That is where I hope this debate can move towards. I hope when the dust has settled we can all try to engage logic a little more in favour of our heightened emotional responses. The content of what these boys said is disgusting – the direct threats in particular should be treated seriously for the safety of those targeted. But we should all fight for our right to free speech, lest we sign away our liberties to authoritarians who try to deny us our freedoms.
Quickly – as I already appreciate that my reply is rather extensive – a few more replies.
Sara: yes I am a student at Warwick myself. I don’t consider myself to be a defeatist; rather, I consider myself someone who wants to advance the discussion here around the kind of society we want to create and how we want to make it better for everyone. In my opinion, that doesn’t make me part of the problem at all.
Xavier: I think it does apply; if I can hope for anything in this situation it would be that we’re able to develop how we as a society tackle undesirable attitudes and behaviours without infringing wholesale upon people’s rights. I’m worried that there are some who would sign away their right to privacy if it meant ‘outing’ morally undesirable views, because I think that would be a mistake.
people are talking here in the comments about how these comments came to light, private conversations, the right to privacy etc. which is all well and fine, and i think some good points have been made for either side. one thing i would like to question though is this: how did the student media find out about all of this?
given that these screenshots have been published by the newspaper the person who reported this behaviour must have done so to the newspaper. this to me seems the wrong way of going about things and is where the whole idea of ‘trial by media’ comes into play. it seems that the university are conducting an investigation based on the news reports: why couldn’t the person have reported the messages to the university first instead of the media?
this is something that i have seen happening more and more these days where young people take to social media and other sources with their disagreements before they do official channels. all this does in my opinion is create media circuses where it actually becomes much harder for the university to conduct its investigation fairly towards everyone who is concerned.
my granddaughter is going off to university (durham) this summer and i sincerely hope that she doesn’t have to encounter any of these odious little stains with their shameful views. however i also hope if she were ever in this situation she would take the matter directly to the relavent authorities (the university, college or maybe even police) and not send things to the student newspaper or post on social media straight away.
just my two cents
ian (not a student!)
Those who reference the “privacy” of the exchange are missing the point. In the UK it is a crime to encourage an offence. Whether the encouragement takes place in a public or private context doesn’t matter.
When I went to Warwick university, some years ago now, there were a few boys in our halls who thought this type of “banter” was perfectly acceptable. They treated several girls in our halls awfully, bullied anyone who didn’t agree with them, and generally created lots of drama. Most of this was just verbal abuse however one time, one of the girls decided to stand up for herself (verbally) and one of the guys physically attacked her. These “jokes” shouldn’t be classed as just banter. Even if it remains verbal, it can still make people’s lives hell, and it can lead to further abusive behaviour.
Piece of shit, hope you rot
Classic knee-jerk reactions where people try to best each either. Whether with brawn, jibes or the most political correct opinions, they all lead down a one way street. If you want to know if these guys were serious, ask some contrary questions and follow that logic. Say a guy was about to rape 100 women – if all the women turned round and said “You can’t rape me, I consent” would he say “Sorry girls, not interested”? If so, yeah, he’s a rapist-in-waiting.
Whether or not you like what someone says, it doesn’t mean they are a criminal in the making. You don’t need to come up with justification by twisting logic and thought processes to punish people because you feel morally superior. If you’re offended by something, stop viewing it, stop associating with it, write an essay on your view. Don’t hound someone and enforce your own self-righteousness – you’re just showing your own intolerance of another view. And if you try to argue that, the chances are you’ll just be showing your ignorance to your intolerance.
From the outside looking in I see an enclosed institution with institutional values, not particularly concomitant with those shared outside that institution. The silly words, conversation, chat, banter, are irrelevant.
The offence that is felt is irrelevant, that’s whipped up by repetitive discussion. You can only be offended once by a single issue. No matter how many peer discussions about it there are during the student day about a single issue, you have only been offended once.
What is not irrelevant is the reason for the expression of those comments.
Having spent years working with those who had an abnormal outlook on life, it was not difficult to recognise that their seeking of the outrageous in order to offend was a weakness in the development of personality and an attention demanding behaviour, normally associated with inadequate parenting.
Unless checked that weakness become a disturbance and then the society in general has cause for concern’
The solution, is to let the “Warwick 11” know that there are consequences for their juvenile behaviour.
If they are sent down, a bit of over kill really. Uni has to be a good parent and while letting them continue their education, they make a condition that the 11 do not engage in social media for the duration of their course. Thereby the authorities and the “offended” monitor their behaviour.
But will it work you ask. You bet it will because the old git writing this has applied countless such behavioural contracts over many years with some quite dangerous adults and adolescents and they work. Now get back to your studies.
Dominic, your comment is silly – not because it doesn’t make sense but because doesn’t apply.
This is not an academic argument. This is a bunch of young men being arses who need to get told off (the amount of media coverage is excessive but they took the risk when posting these awful messages).
You know who didn’t have freedom of thought and expression? The gays and the enthic minorities in the 1950s – it would be interesting to see if you were protecting their freedom of speech back then.
I can’t believe that people are justifying this behaviour as “oh its just joking, they don’t mean it, it’s obviously banter, it isn’t real.”
Numerous studies have shown that actual rapists believe that all men rape. This is why these “jokes” and this “banter” is problematic – because while the people making them might not go around raping people, it normalises and gives legitimacy to those who do.
This behaviour is disgusting and I’m glad it’s being called out and Warwick is right to take the action it has.
Also, i mean, seriously – their chat is embarrassingly juvenile.
The fact that 11 have been suspended should demonstrate this was not some private ‘banter’. Group chats in Facebook and WhatsApp are not private exchanges between individuals. Please spare a thought for the women named in these exchanges who are now traumatised.
-This looks to be shock humor
-Joking about rape/ sex/ etc., obviously doesn’t imply supporting those views (although there probably is a positive correlation)
-If you don’t like this type of humor, change your type of humor, keep sucking it up a get further offended, or leave
This group of students just had their live’s ruined because they privately (if this is true… again this needs to be confirmed) made taboo jokes. Maybe if it was done publically, you could assert this to be hate speech, or propagating hate speech.
Who shared this is the real question?
What should be considered illegal is sharing private banter.
Someone ratted this group out, either someone who is no longer their friend but was a member of the group, or someone snuck into their group , or someone’s Facebook account was accessed without their knowledge, and then attempted vigilante justice.
This article disgusts me not because of what the students were talking about (which is entirely common behaviour, whether your sensitive minds can accept it or not), but because of how this information was acquired, the acquisition method is of course not mentioned.
You don’t have to be a criminal to be asked to leave an establishment. Nobody is accusing these students of a crime.
These actions of these students imply that they are entitled and inconsiderate, undeserving of the opportunity given to them.
They have signed up to a code of conduct, established and overseen by the University. They are the ones that need to “grow up” and realise that their actions have consequences.
Quite frankly, they should never have put pen to paper, so to speak. How foolish to put a conversation like this out in the universe, on social media of all places. This is their own making.
White guys defending and normalising these comments as “banter”
Why am I not surprised?
How unfortunate that there are people commenting here who are so closed-minded to believe that publishing of conversations like this, and the shaming of those who engage in them, is not important to shutting down the attitudes that they convey, regardless of whether any or all of the comments were made in jest.
Alex, Dominic – you are clearly intelligent people, perhaps students yourselves, but somehow you are already defeatist, already part of the problem.
What gets me with this, is how short-sighted and entitled these students must be to have no care for the consequences of their actions. Too privileged to realise that they are not invincible, that they have been given the opportunity of a place in at a well-respected university, a place that could have been granted to someone else, and that their efforts should be going towards living up to that opportunity.
These people have hardly been “vilified”, their names and identities aren’t even public information. Good on The Board for making this public, sexism and lad culture on this scale is abhorrent and should be called out.
Group chat nicknames were about the Grenfell Tower as well… not great.
“So as an academic you are critical of the concept of not only universities (is that research?), but education as of and in itself? Sorry but that is laughable and actually kind of concerning coming from someone who confessed to be an academic in the same sentence as criticising the concept of education. Can I ask what on earth you’re saying to students?”
This escalated quickly. I presume you understand that one cannot in the context of one paragraph articulate such complex views adequately, right? I am critical of universities yes — as I believe education should be free and open to all, regardless of background. The current system in UK leads to long-term debts for relatively little (and in some cases no) wage improvement, and in conjunction with transformations in student attitudes, has rendered education a mere product. Students expect to receive good marks, and Universities are compelled to treat them purely as customers rather than anything else. The result is both a trivialization of education, as it becomes easier and easier to acquire a degree without adequate knowledge, as well as produce people who are no better qualified for employment than if they had not studied. At the same time, I am also critical of the general culture of hierarchization that is imposed in universities, which nurtures students to accept this later in their lives as well. In other words, Universities are now selling a product, and this in itself is devaluing education in itself. This is the context in which I am criticizing ‘education’.
My own research revolves around the concept of the equality of intellect, so I am also critical of education from that perspective — the needless pursuit of ‘marks’ in a race that helps no one in particular to be ‘educated’ as such. It is a very long conversation and I assure you it is not for today, or for this place.
In regards to your other comments: I disagree. If these messages did find their way to a student who felt threatened, offended, or otherwise affected negatively, then we can no longer protect an arbitrary right to free speech and privacy. And at any rate, just as you agree to abide by rules of conduct for pretty much anything, so people should accept that their conduct can be scrutinized in cases like this. This is not about a window left open, or some prying eyes peeking into a conversation they shouldn’t. There are too many screenshots here to have been a case of such a thing. What’s more likely is that someone accepted into this ‘private’ group got offended and then reported the conversation from the inside. It is not ‘policing’ if the University upholds its values and regulates the conduct of its staff and students. It is an *expectation* of any organization of the size of Warwick University.
So as an academic you are critical of the concept of not only universities (is that research?), but education as of and in itself? Sorry but that is laughable and actually kind of concerning coming from someone who confessed to be an academic in the same sentence as criticising the concept of education. Can I ask what on earth you’re saying to students?
I would disagree with you on the issue of privacy. It’s totally misplaced to assume that because something ended up in the public domain it was therefore always public (or at least never strictly private) – what about an email, a text or the recording of a phone call? Because they don’t have a stamp of “PRIVATE” across them does that mean that they are not?
As for the code of conduct – any word there about private conversations? I can’t see any (I’ve not read the Dignity Warwick Policy). Does the university have the right to take into account the content of private conversations if they cannot prove intent behind what is said? Categorically, I would say no.
“Potentially” and “likely” are two very different things. The policy rules state “likely”. Is a joke or communication “likely” to cause “distress” (which by the way is quite a high threshold of unnecessary suffering). I suppose that is up to the disciplinary board.
I have the potential to do a handstand for 20 minutes, but it is not likely I will do so as I cba. To be fair, some of what was said might be considered likely to cause distress, but that to me still does not justify the suspension of the members of the group. I would say that “likely to cause distress” is not a good bit of policy.
It is a form of policing as they have exercised the limited powers available to them in response to the reporting of an incident. I would love the opportunity to see what the mindset of the average student involved in a group chat at the moment in Warwick University is. If they are modifying their behaviour (which isn’t altogether unlikely) then it is absolutely a form of policing.
I consider it likely that the police will be involved, if not purely for the university saving face. (though that is an assumption).
Nobody has ever said I am accountable for my actions in private, other than to myself and unless they have impact on others. Certainly, nobody has warned me that I am accountable for what I say conversing between friends. Though -from my experience- my friends are quite happy to offend me, in healthy retort. I don’t think it’s a crime. Though by the logic we see now, it might well become one (or very nearly one).
I’d like to highlight that what these guys said was distasteful, but not something that justifies expulsion/suspension from the university.
Over and out!
Sad that a private chat between friends has been made public, it’s obviously just banter and they aren’t going out and raping people. If they threaten violence/rape against individuals then that should be taken with a bit more weight but again the context of it is in a joking manner between friends.
I’ve seen group chats my girlfriend is in with her female friends and they are brutal judging men in a similar fashion. Talking about how ugly they are, their failed advances should be castrated etc etc It’s just banter between friends they aren’t going to run out and castrate men that look their way.
Such an overreaction
This is quite clearly a case of people attempting to be as offensive as possible with the goal of ‘shock’ humour.
The key question is whether this was a completley private conversation consisting only of people who all posters knew were “in on” these sick jokes. If it was, it’s very concerning that there might be punishments for it.
However, the fact that the stuff has been made public suggests that maybe it wasn’t so private. Was this a wider Facebook group that was hijacked for these purposes? Were there people in this group who these men knew would be offended by their posts? Or was this “leak” actually from someone previously in on the jokes who had a change of heart.
That’s the key issue here. For people to be punished for what they reasonably believed were entirely private jokes would be very concerning indeed.
Everyone who has helped make this public is doing the Warwick community a service . I don’t know whether the people in the chat have committed sexual assaults or racist crimes in the past, but I can see that they are encouraging each other to do so in the future. They are dangerous. Their behaviour has to be penalised in order to protect those at Warwick uni who want to be respected and safe from assault (which I guess is the majority!!) So sad that there are people out there who defend this kind of thing as ‘just words’.
I am not a student in the strict sense. I am an academic, however, and a member of teaching staff. I will be the first to agree with you that universities are bastions of inequality and that they generate and perpetuate hierarchization as such. I am personally highly critical of the concept of education and the purpose of universities, both historically as well as in contemporary times.
However, this is an altogether different discussion that has very little to do with this. Since these ‘private’ conversations leaked, it is fair to assume that they were never strictly private in the first place — or the group had a very loose policy on admitting new members, eventually admitting someone who actually did not think that such conversations are ‘fair game’. These students are responsible for these jokes, and while they may or may not be deemed criminal offences, they do still qualify under rules and regulations implemented by Warwick University.
In particular, when they registered as students, they tacitly accepted the following, which can be found in Warwick’s Code of Conduct:
1. Abide by the responsibilities and behaviours expected by all employees, as stated within the Dignity at Warwick Policy and in relevant Human Resources policies.
2: Challenge any behaviours that breach the Dignity at Warwick Policy
3: Display exemplary conduct at all times and be aware of the impact of any negative behaviour on the University’s reputation
and 4: Be observant, promptly reporting anything that is likely to cause harm or distress to people or cause property to be destroyed, damaged or stolen.
Therefore, under rules (1) and (2), the offending students should have refrained from creating a group inciting hatred against women and advocating rape — as it infringes on the Dignity at Warwick Policy, which does not specify the permission of such conduct in private. They were also expected to display exemplary conduct “at all times”, and to protect the reputation of the University, which they also failed to do by their immature act.
Under rules (2) and (4), those students who reported these incidents are not ‘snitches’, but are acting in accordance with these stipulated rules of conduct. This includes “challenging” such behaviour, as well as “promptly reporting” it as it could potentially cause distress.
Furthermore, I think it is disingenuous that you brandish this as a form of ‘policing’. Unless the university itself hacked into a private conversation, what is more likely to have happened is that they admitted a member who took offense of this conversation and proceeded to report it. This is entirely within recommended and expected behaviour, as seen in the rules I explored above. The moment the ceased to be careful about protecting their own privacy, the whole debate around ‘policing’ has collapsed. If the university had illegally tapped into their conversation, then that would be a separate incident and of course I would be defending of their right to privacy *in that context*.
Let us not blend perspectives here. The University is within its right to expel or otherwise punish these students. If we are concerned that a moment of sillyness is now going to have actual repercussions on students that are probably barely adults, then yes this is indeed concerning and sad… but is also not a true argument. Adults, as well as children, are advised from a young age that they may be held accountable for their actions, whether in private or in public. Children can and have been held accountable by the law for what in many cases could be seen as ‘immature’ and ‘childish’ behaviour.
Perhaps these repercussions are exactly what will transform them into more careful and considerate adults. If not, they can always blame themselves for letting themselves into this mess.
Rachel. I completely agree. The university should be held accountable.
Well that’s an entirely different situation altogether..
Well, we’re working on the premise that the details of a private conversation become public again but I will run with it for ease.
Context is everything. I would defend their right to free speech if what they were saying was in jest, just as I am these individuals. However, if someone did come across those kind of messages, then reporting them to the police might be an appropriate course of action as currently we are living in a sense of heightened security against in particular, Islamic extremism. Notwithstanding, I would absolutely argue their right to freedom of speech (and of privacy). If there could be proven intent behind the messages (just as is the situation here with the university students), then I imagine the courts and police would intervene. They would be entirely correct to do so. I would still disagree with the way the information comes to light though (i.e through a medium that is neither executive/judicial, or through more nefarious “screenshotting” and sending away on the basis of offence).
With regard the policies and codes of conduct… You are right, in the capacity as a student, the student should comply with the universities requirements. Do you need to comply with the university requirements when communicating as part of a peer group in private? I should hope not.
Offence is irrelevant here, freedom of speech incorporates offensive opinions. If you or I are offended, or anyone else is, it does not matter. If there is a clear racial/sexist element to any statement made with the intent of hurting that person, then that could be considered criminal.
Andreas. If there was a credible threat of Muslims ‘killing all infidels’, and ‘doing 100 terrorist strikes’ then arrest them. If they were joking let them have their opinions. The point is they actually planning on committing these horrible crimes in the first place, answer- probably not.
Incel’s should be identified at an early age and subject to preemptive life incarceration at a work camp facility.
It’s a disgrace that students are being suspended for this sort of thing. It’s not a crime to be offensive. Especially not in a private chat with your friends. It’s not a crime to hold horrible views. It’s not a crime to be an idiot. It’s ridiculous to take the idea seriously that a student (called sir fartsalot?!?) was realistically going to rape 100 girls. Shame on this University and the student Union. Grow up! Who do you think the trigger warnings are helping? You are just turning young people into pathetic, fragile, enfeebled babies who waste their time on stupid text nonsense rather than things that matter. Go read 1984. YOU ARE MORE FASCIST THAN THESE PEOPLE AND MORE OF A DANGER TO FREEDOM
Andreas – encouraging the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism is a criminal offence so if these discussions were taking place, yes it would be different.
Saying offensive jokes in private to friends is an entirely different thing.
People should not be allowed to torture slaves in private; women should not be kept in private rooms away from social interaction; what happens in the workplace, can be private depending on who the communication and/or action is between, though generally things that happen in the workplace, constitute part of public life.
You say the struggle has been to “undo the private”. By that logic, you seem to be advocating that what is said in private should not properly be considered so. There’s always going to be an element of arbitrariness when deciding what is/what is not, in the eyes of the law.
You might be right about racism proliferating in private, but that does not justify the policing of private conversations. I would bet that you have communicated with members of a peer group or a family member things that you would not want nor expect ever to enter the public domain. No matter how balanced, or how PC you believe it to be.
As for the equality argument.. Inequality exists as part of the social hierarchies we evolved in. There’s a reason you’re at university I assume (PS I’m assuming you are please correct if I’m wrong) – that reason is (a) because you’re academically sound, and it was the most appropriate route for you post-school and; (b) because you want to maximise your potential. This is a machine of inequality, we strive to create it. It’s almost predatory instinct.
I’ll admit this system is far from perfect and part of the beauty is that we’re always (or should be) striving to make it better. The invasion of private lives is not the way to make a system better. It undermines the trust that allows us to build basic relationships. Quite worrying don’t you think?
Michael, I will only ask you one thing.
If these were discussions between Muslims, speaking of ‘killing all infidels’, and ‘doing 100 terrorist strikes’, and other such “innocent” jokes, would their mockery of safety and order offend you? Or would you also be here to defend their right to free speech? Assuming, of course, they did not actually commit any of the stuff they ‘joke’ about. Assume their group was also private, of course, since it is so important that something is ‘private’ and apparently there is nothing problematic about that.
Analogies reveal the hypocrisy inherent to these arguments. Of course we would still hold these people accountable to their ‘private’ words.
You are right about the ‘trial by public opinion’ thing, however. No one is saying that these students should be judged by commenters here. Universities have their own policies and codes of conduct, and they usually inform students when they register that any racist or sexist view will not be tolerated. In their capacity as students, and in its capacity as their university, any suspensions or expulsions are absolutely justified.
Now, in regards to whether there is any ‘crime’ here, the police and the courts are those who will rightly determine this.
“Correction: If I (or the subject of the so-called humour) don’t find it funny, then it wasn’t a joke.”
That’s not how a joke works.
I don’t think anyone is advocating that. What is worrying is trial by public opinion. That is without doubt what we are all beginning to witness. It happened last week with the law students in another university being suspended, and it’s just happened again with this.
You call someone racist in your comment – what makes someone racist? Treating somebody of a different ethnic origin a certain way -less favourably than your own ethnic origin usually- or saying something in jest to a peer group in private in the knowledge that it won’t go any further? Is it both? Moreover, I think it is almost safe to say we live in a culture that is dominated by feminism and identity politics generally.
“Sending 100 or so screenshots to your university is excessive, and it’s a worrying sign that what we say in private is no longer private and risk of being outed at any moment.”
The very meaning and use of ‘private’ as you use it here, is, in fact, the problem. Struggles of millions of people were over what we should define as ‘private’ or not. Should people be allowed to torture slaves in private? Should women be confined to the ‘domus’, the private realm of the household? Should what happens in factories to workers, within the private space of the factory, be okay?
The struggle has always been to undo the private, to demolish the difference between arbitrarily dictating what is ‘seen’ and what is not ‘seen’. Racism proliferates in private. Let’s oust it publically.
Also, isn’t it hypocritical that those who advocate inequality are now so concerned that their own views are treated with inequality? If you deny the equality of others, you must be prepared to relinquish yours.
This really is quite a concerning time for the UK and freedom of speech. I would like to know a few things about this situation.. (i) how did the details of the private conversation end up both being reported to the university, and thereafter the public domain; (ii) why has the university taken upon itself the “investigation” ; (iii) what is the university investigating exactly?
We are fast approaching (it would seem) the policing of free speech. First the students expelled last week over the dissemination of private messages, now this. The extreme left’s fantasy of being making those “undesirable things” unsafe to say is coming true – this is actually materialising before our very eyes, and destroying -potentially- bright futures. It is truly contradictory to advocate that some things are safe to say, while others are not, and should not be tolerated; while at the same time, these university social justice warriors advocate that they are the rights-based way forward. It would be laughable if it were not terrifying. (from a student in Glasgow).
James, in Huxley ‘thoughtcrime’ refers to any thinking that goes against the totalitarian and confined political perspectives imposed by the controlling regime. Are you seriously implying that anti-racism and anti-sexism have become a totalitarian imposing regime? Are you seriously implying that racists and sexists are somehow on the margins of an imposed morality? Are they oppressed now? Is now anti-racism and anti-sexism the norm, so much so that those who hold racist and sexist views are a minority that is dominated and subordinated by multiculturalism and feminism?
If you are seriously saying anything even slightly similar to the above, you must be living in an entirely different world indeed.
People who “take offence” really are a problem in society.
Note that offence can’t be given, it can only be taken.
It is the mark of intolerance of the rights and the views of others.
Free speech is an absolute. Otherwise we are on the slippery slope to despotism.
So anyone who “takes offence” is a fascist. Just like Hitler.
This is what happens when you get people trying to save the day by getting people expelled from university for private (however tasteless) jokes .
“Correction: If I (or the subject of the so-called humour) don’t find it funny, then it wasn’t a joke.” – Are you serious? A joke is not defined as such, purely on the subjective opinion of what you find funny. There are many unfunny comedians in the world (mostly women, must be said), but just because I don’t find them funny, it does not automatically mean it is no longer a joke. This is madness.
We should not have to live in a world where there is thought police. People should be free to say whatever they want amongst friends without threat of punitive action. Virtue signalling and trying to be a hero by taking screenshots of group chats to ruining the lives of people who’ve said something you don’t agree with is disproportionately malicious.
Sending 100 or so screenshots to your university is excessive, and it’s a worrying sign that what we say in private is no longer private and risk of being outed at any moment.
So you believe In thought crime? I really hope this is not what being British means to you
Edward: What stops, then, every criminal from calling their crimes a ‘joke’? Are we seriously going to hide behind the term ‘horrific humour’? Now THAT’S scary.
Trigger warning: paedophilia and fgm!?
Yes the language is horrific, but people should be free to express horrific humour as they so wish. The alternative is truly scary.
I have come to this website via the BBC news report. If any of you students think this language is acceptable in any form then I question your presence in further education. I would hope the Police get involved and perhaps then these vile comments would be punished under the full powers that are in place to deter such violence. There is no place in British society or any other for such behaviour to be tolerated.
James, save the hypocrisy. Huxley can inspire people to combat racism and sexism, just as much as you can use him to refer to what you deem as cultural oppression of racist and sexist views.
The aggressor is not oppressed. And you cannot speak of ‘thought crimes’. These people named particular co-students. They were involved within a “culture” of casual sexism and racism. People do not normally create groups where they can exclusively share racist and sexist messages between them. This is an actuation of underlying beliefs and commitments, not a ‘thought crime’. They were committed enough to their beliefs to create a group to share them, and make them a part of their daily behaviour. Stop pretending that outside of this group these people are innocent of their racism and sexism. Stop pretending that they haven’t, or aren’t able to, commit the crimes which they reflect upon with such eagerness.
If you are prepared to accept that someone can be indicted of ‘plotting’ a terrorist attack, then accept that one can also be indicted of this. Stop with the double-standards. And stop pretending that you care about who is going to be punished tomorrow. Your only concern is to defend the inappropriate, and to morally embellish and normalize this behaviour.
We live in an age of political correctness, virtue gesturing, “social justice”, intolerance of dissenting views and of identity politics.
These are destroying the British way of life and British culture.
So “comedy” on the BBC stopped being funny long ago and people don’t tell jokes to their friends like they once did.
What this is doing is taking away from us our rights and freedoms. We are being constrained to behave according to narrow parameters. It is Orwellian. Read 1984 with your brain engaged and you can see what is being done to us. Then read about Frankfurt School Cultural Marxism.
So now banter and hyperbole, once mainstays of our culture are a punishable crime.
This really is fascism. Hitler burned books and got rid of art he didn’t like. Now we do the same with ideas. Critical thinking, once a mainstay of British academic life, has all but disappeared. Universities have become leftist indoctrination machines, filling students immature brains with falsehoods.
Here are some trigger words to prove my point.
Honestly, it’s terrifying what can happen to you in real life from a PRIVATE conversation. Yes what they said I don’t agree with, but it clearly is not a credible threat. It’s just a bad joke, get over it.
Now if these students were not being serious about what they said they will face the stigma for the rest of their lives.
When I first read 1984, I thought gosh luckily I don’t live in this world. Now I’m starting to see some parallels into this world. The thought crime (A joke), the thought police (the snitch) and the punishment (suspension).
The question today is what punishable tomorrow.
“This is a witch hunt, designed to appeal to emotion rather than logic and to virtue signal about how much you care about people saying the wrong thing.”
This is not a witch-hunt, which implies the victimization of innocents. This is a condemnation of those who, whether genuinely or not, endorse the production of a perilously racist, pedophilic, and sexist discourse.
In regards to the comment in ‘civil liberties’. Your liberty ends where someone else’s begins. You cannot use ‘civil liberties’ as a cop-out to excuse intolerance, racism, bullying, and abuse. And are we seriously using the argument of ‘liberty’ in its archaic form in 2018? Might as well remind yourself that when Ben Franklin was alive, slavery was also a thing — and would be for almost another century. He himself was a slave-owner, Taking quotes out of context is not only ridiculous, it is actually stupid.
Since we are now taking quotes by famous people out of context, I might as well point your attention to the fact that Franklin also said the following:
“One single moment of pleasure may outweigh and compensate an age of pain.” In this case, consider this group chat their one single moment of pleasure. The age of pain that will ensue, as we judge them based on their morally deficit and culturally defunct views, is Franklin approved.
Messages posted on social media are not ‘private’
Sorry Seb but i don’t think anyone involved in the private conversation the article refers to has committed any of the appalling acts you describe….
Patti, i find your reference to ‘White boys’ racist and offensive. This comments column is a non-private shared space, unlike the private space the people being condemned were conversing in.
Dominic, you have hit the nail on the head. I think the crucial question here is was it a private chat ? If it was not then these comments are totally unacceptable. If it was a private chat then the people responsible for making it public are he ones who have questions to answer.
Sounds like a bunch of people got too deep in the meme’s to me i mean if it was me and i was offended by a joke in a private group chat id just leave the group rather than stay and listen and document it all the person who reported it seems more like a drama hunter than someone who was offended
It is important that everyone can live and study in an environment where they can feel safe. It is unreasonable to expect women to share facilities, including flats, halls or other University accomodation, with people who express these views and apparently condone such behaviour. I hope that they have been banned from Campus.
A private conversation with no conspiracy to commit any crime is published to ruin the lives of 11 people. Criminal offences or at least civil damages will need to be brought against the individual who leaked this private conversation, and the editors of ‘The Boar’ and ‘The Tab’.
The 11 victims of this must get legal representation now.
The sad individual that leaked this chat, costing these people their futures, and the state hundreds of thousands in wasted tuition loans, should be ashamed.
“62% of students and graduates have experienced sexual violence as per the definition used by Rape Crisis. Groping, harassment, unwanted touching, coercion, sexual assault, rape – all commonplace, it turns out, in UK universities. Shockingly, 8% of female respondents said they had been raped at university – double the 4% of all women in England and Wales that the Office for National Statistics estimates.”
Turns out it’s not just a joke.
Look at all these white boys defending these sick, racist, misogynistic comments. Big surprise! Warwick should be investigating the Alexs, Noels and Dominics and all the other immature little boys out there as well. In fact, I encourage any member of a uni-based group chat to whistleblow on those using such disgusting language. Let’s rid Warwick of these racists and rape apologists.
Would you feel the same way if they were talking about your daughter? I think not. I dont know how u can even say this is a joke. Seriously. And the racism. Well… i hope nothing ever happens to any of your children in the future because im sure you wouldnt find it funny if it was your child they were talking about.
Comment copied from another Boar article on offensive private chats, I’ve modified the wording a bit.
At risk of being called an apologist or ‘Uncle Tom’, I do believe that private conversations should be allowed to be private, regardless of how offensive their contents are. It hurts to see people expressing these views in group chats, like this one and the Exeter students’ one, but there are a few things which I would point out. Firstly, even if people do sincerely hold these horrific views, outing private messages won’t stop them from having them. I personally think it’s naive to think that we can combat racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination by policing private conversations. It doesn’t work like that, it only emboldens people wth bigoted views. Secondly, a horrendous and tasteless joke, when expressed in private between friends, is still a joke. I think it’s dangerous to think that hate speech laws should apply, the law is not the morality police. Thirdly, whatever happened to civil liberties? I know it’s oft-(mis)quoted, but I do think Ben Franklin’s words are in fact relevant here: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” And, of course, Evelyn Hall’s ‘Voltairean principle’ springs to mind: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I know some will disagree, but the thought of living in an Orwellian nightmare of thoughtcrimes and an utterly perished right to privacy is very worrying to me.
All I would add to this is that I do think it’s right to distinguish between ‘dark humour’ – where the subject is controversial, but in the hypothetical – and targeted attacks – as we see here in a few of the comments made. Direct threats, even when made in private, should be investigated if brought to light. Rape jokes – as much as they are tasteless and offensive to many – should not be banned, in my opinion. Sustained threats of abuse directed towards a particular individual, on the other hand, should be treated seriously to ensure the safety of the individual targeted.
“A group of friends having a joke” is not what this is. Psychopathic, is what this is. Things said in jest between people you know well is banter and won’t mind is banter, and we’re all guilty of it. This is just fucking grim, and people like this shouldn’t be ruining it for the rest of us.
Noel – clearly this wasn’t a private conversation concerning only these individuals otherwise we wouldn’t know about it. Someone(s) have been disturbed enough to report this information so they were not ‘consenting’ to the conversation. This said, hopefully Warwick students/let alone society execs would be aware enough to halt such ‘conversation’ in its tracks. They weren’t.
I personally feel that it is completely fine to make jokes about basically any topic, you simply have to be careful about where you make such jokes. Generally speaking the point of these kind of jokes is to shock, and not necessarily to convey actual beliefs. The referencing of particular individuals people knew, like flatmates, and suggestions of underage sex should be taken seriously and be dealt with appropriately. But I’m not sure if the parts of this that are solely “offensive humour”, the necrophilia references or the Grenfell nickname for example, deserve punishment. From reading this it seems to me, though I could be mistaken, that this was a private chat consisting of only the people engaging in these jokes. In that case any offence taken by someone reading this was done so having read the above trigger warning, and thus in my view they’re responsible for having chosen to read this. I imagine almost all of us could find someone who has found something we’ve said in private to be grossly offensive, and whilst some things clearly warrant further scrutiny here, I don’t think that people deserve consequences from engaging in dark humour (though other things that are mentioned in the messages do deserve serious punishment if found to be true).
Alex – so it is OK to share comments about rape, underage rape, racist rape as a joke?! Such attitudes normalise the behaviour. Several students have been traumatised by these comments. Of course the students concerned deserve to be suspended – they now have a chance to justify these comments. I await the explanation.
Completely incredible! I can’t fathom how people can justify this behaviour. These are direct suggestions and comments about what sexual violence people should experience and deserve from people they live with?
I wonder who these people are? The police, along with anyone their involved with, should be aware
“Oh no! A group of friends joked about something you find offensive?”
Correction: If I (or the subject of the so-called humour) don’t find it funny, then it wasn’t a joke.
What is shocking is that these men felt free to say/write these awful things. How dare they? Of course they have to be called out.
100 screenshots worth is going beyond a joke.
“Witch hunt“? I really don’t agree with that. You can always look at other people’s banter out of context and and make them out to be dickheads but this is something else. Warwick is supposed to be a safe, inclusive place and these people really should know better than to be as offensive as this, even if they ‘didn’t mean it’ or ‘got carried away’ or whatever else. And the fact that they’re apparently prominent past and present exec members, if true, is just sad.
Certainly these people need some educating, I’m sure no one will disagree with that. They’ll learn a valuable lesson from this, and good thing too! And whatever consequences they face, however harsh they may be, fact is they’re all adults, and they should be fully responsible and accountable for their own actions.
Oh no! A group of friends joked about something you find offensive? The horror.
Just because you don’t think it was funny, just because it triggered you, doesn’t mean they should be vilified. Nothing I saw is any proof that any threat of rape or actual rape actually happened. Sure, the university should probably set up some mediation for the arguments within the flat. Other than that, what should happen is the same thing that happens when someone you don’t know says something about someone else you don’t know with no evidence of past or future crimes. Nothing.
This is a witch hunt, designed to appeal to emotion rather than logic and to virtue signal about how much you care about people saying the wrong thing.