It is a truth universally acknowledged that the phrase ‘boys will be boys’ is long outdated. Ask anybody and you shall see the eye roll, and the exasperation on their faces at the idea that ‘lad culture’ is still an excusable and acceptable part of society. However, considering Warwick University’s recent decision to not expel members of a severely racist, misogynistic, paedophilic and sexually abusive group chat – this is clearly still a prominent issue.
The Facebook group chat was first reported last summer by Warwick student newspaper The Boar. Three formal complaints were made and 98 screenshots of the group chat were submitted to the university as evidence. As a result, 11 students were temporarily suspended, however, four students have since had their suspension lifted. In a letter, seen by the BBC, a university official apologised for not informing students of the appeal’s outcome sooner – citing “my delayed summer break”.
As India-Mae (a History student) said in a recent interview with the Warwick Tab, “It’s clear I’ve been assuming the best of people. I am tired of men upholding a sexist culture which prioritises their sick sense of humour over the safety and wellbeing of women”. She also claims that “The onus is on men at Warwick to check each other – you need to hold each other accountable” and I could not agree more. It can not, and should not, only be up to women to ensure their own safety. In this modern day and age, everyone should be proactively trying to improve the society in which we live.
As Jemima (a first-year student) rightly pointed out to The Tab, “The most shocking thing […] is that people are defending it […] If you defend the words these grown men have used as simply them exercising their ‘freedom of speech’, you are being complicit in their misogyny, racism and antisemitism – you are part of the problem.” How can anyone rightly support the students responsible? Many of the comments in the group chat call for members to supposedly rape fellow students as they are ‘calling for it’. Horrifyingly, there are also lewd comments depicting one member’s relationship with an underage student.
Just glimpsing some of the comments people have shared online is enough to make anyone’s blood boil. Worse than this is the fear it strikes into students like myself, to think this kind of behaviour is allowed. University is supposed to be a safe space. Yet, the harrowing truth is that, as a comment journalist, I find myself repeatedly questioning the principals on which this country runs and views universities. Students at Warwick are calling out their student media for failing to cover this issue, and their reluctance to start any kind of public discussion about the threat this poses for students on campus. One Facebook post from a Warwick student (who shall remain anonymous), states how appalled and confused they are by the university’s decision to re-instate these students despite the risk they pose to other students, particularly female.
One small positive is that Warwick SU has released a statement stating: “The SU condemns the content of these messages […] in the strongest possible terms”. The SU has been supporting the victims and promises to continue to do so. However, this is not enough – not when the perpetrators have reportedly created a second group chat, in which they have made it clear they are not sorry for their actions, and would ‘do it all again’. The University needs to take more decisive action to reassure students, and to make it clear that behaviour such as this will not be tolerated.
It is a basic, fundamental human right to be safe. To not fear threat or harm. Why is it then, that universities can not seem to be able to understand this? How many Ph.D.’s does someone need before they realise this kind of behaviour is unacceptable? If this were happening here, at Royal Holloway, we would be outraged that these students are allowed anywhere near the campus, let alone back into classes. As Nikola Tesla argued, “If hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world” and right now, Warwick is shining pretty brightly.