The Tab Nottingham first reported that the group had dressed as the Smiler ride for the 7 Legged charity pub crawl organised by the university, claiming that “some of them stuffed old jeans and tied them up to make fake amputated legs”.
Since then, the students have been slammed by the tabloid media, with victims of the crash also calling the costume “disgusting” and “disrespectful”.
But the university’s SU has said the Tab article was a “misrepresentation”.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the SU said: “On 17 October 2016, 3,000 students attended an annual event organised by RAG volunteers. During the course of the event, photos of the team dressed as a rollercoaster were taken by The Tab Nottingham.
“The costume was in no way intended to reference the tragedy that occurred on the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers.
“Its design was based on a traditional concept that has existed for several years and no reference was made to the Smiler by the students involved. ‘7 legless’ was intended to be a pun on the name of the bar crawl ‘7 Legged’ and the state of being inebriated.
“The students involved further wish to apologise unreservedly to those affected by the Smiler incident for any offence or distress they may have unwittingly caused.”
The Tab article has come under scrutiny after Joseph Archer, deputy editor at the Tab Nottingham and co-author of the article, admitted that he did not speak to the students about their costume.
Archer told the Mail Online: “Sadly it was in a very busy bar. I didn’t really have a chance to speak to them because there were so many people in the bar wearing different costumes.”
The 21-year-old natural sciences student added: “We’ve heard a lot of excuses but I just reported on what was there and what happened and what they were doing. I don’t think it was misrepresentation.”
Responding to crash victim Joe Pugh’s tweet that the costumes were “disgusting and disrespectful”, one Twitter user wrote: “I know one guy dressed as the roller coaster and I need to make it so clear that they were not dressed as the Smiler.”
A student named Andrew responded to the article directly, commenting: “This has nothing to do with the Smiler incident. There’s no reference to it at all, it’s just a generic costume. A simple google search for “rollercoaster costume” will prove that.
“It’s pretty disgusting that you’re making this assumption. These people have done nothing wrong but will be harassed for months on social media because of you’re stupid allegations.”
The University of Nottingham said it is waiting for a decision from the Student Union.
A spokesperson said: “The University of Nottingham has liaised closely with the Students’ Union (SU) since it became aware of the conduct of students attending an SU-organised event on 17 October.
“The University is aware of the SU’s initial investigations regarding this matter and its media statement issued today. The University expects to receive a full report from the SU on the conduct of the event on 17 October and the future of the event itself.”
The Tab have been contacted for comment.