The University of Derby has suspended six male students over “degrading and offensive” comments made in a group chat.
(Trigger warnings: sexual violence, rape)
Five students on a policing course and one business student were accused of being part of a group chat where sexual remarks were made about female peers.
The university claimed that they were made aware of the group chat on Thursday 16 April and suspended the students involved the next day.
Screenshots of messages sent in the group chat were posted online and included the men rating the appearance of female students, with one of them joking about using child rape in a chat-up line.
A University of Derby spokeswoman said: “We were incredibly disappointed to see the degrading and offensive language used in online forums about some of our female students.
“Such behaviour is unacceptable, will not be tolerated and is being addressed with the utmost urgency. The male students involved in making these comments have been suspended and we are working with an external specialist agency to carry out a full and formal investigation.
We are following our sexual misconduct policy and processes to ensure this is conducted fairly and thoroughly, and have offered support to the female students affected by this
– University of Derby spokeswoman
“We are following our sexual misconduct policy and processes to ensure this is conducted fairly and thoroughly, and have offered support to the female students affected by this.”
A Derbyshire Constabulary spokesman said: “We have been made aware of a social media post relating to remarks made by a number of individuals.
“Two of the individuals alleged to have been involved in these remarks are current Derbyshire Constabulary special constables and inquiries are ongoing into their conduct – as well as possible criminal offences that may have taken place.
“The two special constables from Derbyshire have been immediately suspended from duty, and staff from the force’s counter-corruption unit are liaising with another force in relation to others mentioned in the posts.
“The type of language seen in these comments is completely unacceptable and the organisation utterly condemns it.”
The investigation follows the Warwick group chat scandal, where violent sexual comments had been made about female students on a group chat of male undergraduates.
In September 2019, Universities UK published guidance for its members on how to tackle online harassment, after warnings that the majority of universities lacked adequate procedures to deal with harmful online behaviour of students and staff.