Exeter University law society disbanded after students posted ‘racist’ WhatsApp messages

'The conduct of the society fell short of the standards and values of the university'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
@Eleanor_Busby
Thursday 13 December 2018 14:43
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The private WhatsApp messages were shared online by a student
The private WhatsApp messages were shared online by a student

A prestigious university law society has been disbanded after a number of its members made racist comments in a private WhatsApp group.

The Bracton Law Society at the University of Exeter has been dissolved following an investigation into law students who used racial slurs, derogatory terms and rape “jokes” in the society’s group chat.

A student posted screenshots of the “racist and vile” messages – which included “If they’re black, send em back” – on Facebook earlier this year.

Those involved received expulsions, suspensions and other sanctions.

Now the university and the students’ guild have decided to shut down the Bracton Law Society after a review concluded that the society’s conduct fell short of the standards and values expected.

The law society, which claims to be the largest student society at the Russell Group university, is known for its links to leading national and international law and professional services firms.

A new law society will be set up to ensure students have a society that is “truly inclusive”, the university has said.

In a statement on Facebook, the president of the society said the decision was not made in light of the current committee’s work. She said: “I am incredibly proud of all the work that we have done this term in promoting diversity and making all law students feel welcome in the wider community.”

Rosie McDonagh, vice president of activities for the students’ guild, said: “This year’s committee have made obvious improvements to the Bracton Law Society and I appreciate the steps they have taken.

“However, the legacy of a few students’ actions last year and the evidence collected by the review board this year has resulted in the recommendation to create a new society.

“This will provide the best opportunity for the society to move past the events of last year and to create a more positive legacy.“

A spokesman for the University of Exeter said: “After an incident involving students from the Bracton Law Society earlier this year, the university launched a major investigation that determined individual sanctions on those involved – this included expulsions, suspensions, and other significant penalties.

“Subsequently, the students’ guild and the university conducted a broader formal joint review of the society and its operations.

“The Review Board determined that the conduct of the society fell short of the standards and values of the university and students’ guild, and should therefore be disbanded.”

He added: “A new, distinct Law Society will be formed in its place, which will offer members a broad range of opportunities to broaden their skills, career development and employment opportunities.

“The Students’ Guild and the university are confident that the new society will ensure that current and future students have a society that is truly inclusive, and can all be proud of.”

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