The University of Warwick has not “proven their ability” to protect their students, especially women and minorities, one of the group chat victims has said in an interview with The Guardian.
The female student, who has filed a lawsuit against the University alongside her fellow complainant, also revealed that she had to take an exam in the same room as one of the perpetrators following an administrative “mistake”.
Danielle – not her real name – stated: “I think that if you are a girl or if you’re a minority, if you’ve been through past traumas, knowing that your university is going to care for you is really important.”
“I think right now Warwick haven’t proven their ability to do that,” Danielle said, adding that based on the University’s “track record”, she would “say to people that maybe they’re better to go elsewhere”.
“If you want somewhere that’s going to be zero tolerance for discrimination, it’s not the right place to be.”
Danielle’s statements follow the publication of an independent external review of the University’s disciplinary system. The report was revealed to the public on 10 July.
This review saw the announcement of a new “five-point action plan” that commits to greater transparency, better victim communication and quarterly public updates on progress.
Professor Stuart Croft, Warwick’s vice-chancellor, told The Boar: “I want to take a moment and say that I have apologised and will continue to apologise to the victims and the wider community.”
Danielle, who is suing the University for discrimination and negligence, said that their reaction to her lawsuit “completely contradicts everything that Croft has said in public”.
“The university has responded with a letter which says that we have no grounds and that they are disputing any liability,” Danielle shared. “I think there’s a will on (Professor Croft’s) part to do the right thing now, although not legally. That’s frustrating me.”
I think that if you are a girl or if you’re a minority, if you’ve been through past traumas, knowing that your university is going to care for you is really important
Regarding the vice-chancellor’s handling of the group chat case, she said: “His whole approach was to just try and shut it down and brush it under the carpet. He is ultimately head of the university, and if you can’t listen to students, I don’t know how capable you are of doing that job.”
Danielle revealed to The Guardian that she was “confined” in the same room as one of the men from the group chat for one of her final exams this year.
Although she had asked to take her exams alone under mitigating circumstances, the man sat next to her for one of them and the invigilator left the room several times during so.
In fear of risking her degree, Danielle stayed in the room for the examination. Recounting the experience, she said: “I think it’s a real failure of safeguarding.”
“To be in a confined space, just me and him, was really scary. I was really shaken up. There was no one else on campus because it was a Saturday,” Danielle stated.
“I ended up having to call my partner to come and collect me because I literally didn’t feel like I could make it home.”
A spokesman for the University said that the “incredibly upsetting” exam incident was the result of “a late change to the room schedule, which the male student was informed of but did not observe.”
They told The Guardian: “The mistake was quickly recognised and (he) was directed to the correct room. An investigation was carried out and measures have been put in place to ensure a similar situation cannot happen again.”
In her interview, Danielle condemned the university’s conducting of the group chat investigation, which had further traumatised her and the other complainant.
Professor Croft said that while there were “conflicts of interest in the past”, the University “understands now” what measures should be taken
She revealed the “accusatory” questioning by the Director of Press who was appointed to investigate the case. Similar allegations were made against him in the BBC’s documentary, “The Warwick Uni Rape Chat Scandal”.
“He went through every single boy and said, have you ever slept with this boy? Then we had over 90 screenshots and we were taken through them one by one,” Danielle recalled.
“And he was like, OK, can you explain what you interpret this to mean for every single quote? Which was intense. I got really upset and I asked him to leave.”
Following the results of the review which came out last week, the University has promised to ensure that cases of sexual misconduct and other serious cases are to be investigated only by investigators with specialist skills.
Alongside better qualified investigators, “training and support to all those involved undertaking these complex and sensitive processes” will also be provided, such as ‘face to face’ training and trauma-informed training by sector experts.
Speaking to The Boar, Professor Croft said that while there were “conflicts of interest in the past”, the University “understands now” what measures should be taken. He added that “nobody in communications will be appointed” to handle similar cases “anymore”.
Although Danielle has since graduated with a first and will further her studies at another university, she shared that she was “grieving for the university experience (she) should have had”, alongside her fellow complainant.
“I really hope that it’s not just Warwick that learns from this,” she added.
Speaking to The Guardian, a spokesman for the University said that they have apologised for their mistakes. They also said the independent review noted that staff acted “conscientiously, in good faith and with the best of intentions”.