Warning: story contains offensive content
A group of University of Exeter students have been suspended amid claims that members of a law society sent racist messages in a private WhatsApp group.
Screenshots said to be from the group, which includes law students and members of the university’s Bracton Law Society (BLS), appear to reveal a deluge of racist abuse, with one message claiming: “This is why we need a race war”.
Other screenshots sent in the group read: “If they’re black, send ’em back” and “If you ain’t English, go home”.
The phrase “Bomb the mosques” also appeared in the group.
The messages were disclosed on social media by Exeter law student Arsalan Motavali, who said he set up the group chat in summer 2017 but that it became “increasingly racist and deplorable” after he was removed as an admin and other students were added.
According to the undergraduate, who says he remained in the group “to collect evidence”, there were members of the group who were not involved in the racist messages.
“All the screenshots attached need no explanation,” Motavali wrote in a post on Facebook. “Repeated racial slurs, a call for a race war and racially insulting peers would be enough to get individuals severely disciplined, fired and shunned in any other workplace - the Guild, University and BLS should act no differently.”
In other messages posted in the group, members referenced Enoch Powell’s controversial “Rivers of Blood” speech about mass immigration, while one member joked about gang rape.
Motavali said: “I refuse to stand by and let such people who speak in these terms go on to recruit at future law firms or be a part of University culture, whilst cowering behind their phones and talking like this about people that are part of the society they represent.
“If you’re going to be a racist, be a racist, just be prepared to face the consequences that come with being such a person.”
Motavali’s further posts on Twitter have been shared almost 1,500 times, with users calling on Exeter University to ensure non-white students “know that their safety, education and humanity does not matter less”.
A spokesperson from the university said that “a small group of students” had been suspended while an investigation into the allegations is underway. The police have also been informed.
“The University of Exeter does not tolerate any form of racist, sexist or bigoted behaviour and is committed to eradicating any instances of discrimination and harassment that may arise,” they said, adding that “full disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate”.
A Devon and Cornwall police spokesperson said: “Police are aware of this incident and are liaising with staff at the University of Exeter.”
Bracton Law Society said that members involved in the incident had been banned indefinitely, adding that the messages “do not in any way whatsoever represent the society or its ethos”.
Meanwhile, law firm Hill Dickinson LLP announced that it had revoked the contract of someone due to start at the company in September 2019 in relation to the incident.
“We are deeply disturbed by the messages that were brought to our attention last night and would like to stress that the views expressed by the individual and others involved in this matter do not in any way represent the views of the firm and we absolutely do not condone this behaviour,” Hill Dickinson’s CEO Peter Jackson said in a statement.
Shakira Martin, president of the National Union of Students, said in tweet she would be contacting Exeter’s student union to discuss the issue, using the hashtag #WeWillKickRacismOffOurCampuses.
But members of the university’s African and Caribbean Society said the incident was “only the most recent of a string of attacks, both verbal and physical, on BME students from our university”.
“This is an assault on the right of every student at the university to live and study without fear of being abused because of the colour of their skin,” they added.
Last year, a swastika and a “Rights for Whites” sign were found in University of Exeter halls of residence, while students were pictured wearing T-shirts bearing anti-Semitic and racist slogans during a freshers week event in 2016.
The incident also comes just weeks after a video from Nottingham Trent University captured racist abuse being chanted outside the room of the black student.
Rufaro Chisango, who posted the clip to social media, wrote on twitter at the time: “Words cannot describe how sad this makes me feel, in this 2018 people think this is still acceptable.”