We wish to express our dismay at the recent University of Warwick decision to reduce the suspension period of two of the students responsible for a ‘group chat’ that included racist, sexist and homophobic language and threats, directed toward their peers.
As a branch, Warwick UCU is committed to defending the right of students, our members, and other staff to study and work without fear of harassment, bullying, or discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, in line with the Equality Act 2010. As when the incident first occurred, we believe this to be both a student issue and a workplace issue. The prospect of sharing a classroom and other university spaces with individuals who would so unabashedly express such violent views about their peers is deeply troubling for students and staff alike.
While we appreciate the confidential nature of disciplinary proceedings and that there may be factors in this decision that are beyond our knowledge, we nonetheless believe this outcome seriously compromises the University’s commitment to ensuring a safe learning and working environment that values equality and diversity. It undermines the Dignity at Warwick policy. It also profoundly diminishes our faith in the University to appropriately deal with incidents of this nature and to put the best interests of those being targeted first. More specifically, we believe it is unacceptable that the students in question will be allowed to return to campus before those who were harmed by this incident have finished their studies.
Furthermore, the University’s response to the widespread concern with this decision has so far been inadequate. While we appreciate that the University has made it abundantly clear that it does not condone the actions of these students, we believe more must be done to create transparency and restore confidence in the University. The suggestion that those who are concerned seek support from Wellbeing Services does nothing to acknowledge the systemic nature of this and related issues, while also transferring responsibility for this injustice onto individuals.
We believe the University must respond not only with public statements but with actions by appointing an inclusive commission to review the University’s policies on harassment, bullying and discrimination, as well as on the disciplinary procedure itself. We feel that an open conversation on the defects in a university culture which allows for such situations to arise is urgently necessary.
Finally, we wish to extend our continued support to the students who were immediately affected by this incident and who continue to experience its impact in their lives. We admire the strength and courage of those who have come forward to make the outcome of this appeal public knowledge.