Sick messages, using extreme racist language and references to slavery, are alleged to have been sent among members of a university law society.
The students – destined to become senior lawyers, barristers and judges – have been suspended from Exeter University while a ‘major investigation’ takes place and the police have been informed.
One student has had their offer of work with a law firm retracted.
The messages were included in a private WhatsApp group and were shared on social media by student Arsalan Motavali.
He reported the matter to the university and guild before publishing the messages on social media.
The messages include references to sending black people home, using the most racist perjorative terms, the phrases ‘dirty Arabs’ and ‘if you aint English goes home’ and discusses a stabbing which the messages say should have gone further.
It also says the law society should be for whites only and includes rape jokes, as well as referencing the infamous Rivers of Blood speech.
A racism probe is now being carried out by the university and the students union – the Exeter Guild – into the alleged extreme conversations.
The society that those sending the messages belonged to has also pledged to take action.
Mr Motavali said he initially created the chat group in 2017 but over time was removed as admin as it was taken over by other students.
He said: “All of the screenshots need no explanation. 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.
“I refuse to stand by and let such people who speak in these terms go on to recruit at future law firms or be 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, but just be prepared to face the consequences that come with being such a person.
“I came to this University to learn, better myself and be a part of a community I was led to believe were tolerant and welcoming to all students, regardless of background.
“From multiple instances of antisemitism, blackface and now to this. The University of Exeter has a serious racism problem that they need to deal with urgently and by setting a precedent.
“Please help me to share this across social media so these individuals can be suspended and permanently banned from participating in any aspect of University culture in the future.”
Last night, as the messages were shared to hundreds of thousands of people.
Exeter University tweeted: “We unreservedly condemn any act of racism”.
“Incidents of this nature should not, and will not, be tolerated and we are committed to eradicating any form of discrimination or harassment, wherever it may appear.”
Exeter University also stated: “Following reports of allegations involving a small group of students, the University has launched a major investigation, in conjunction with the Students’ Guild, and suspended the students while this takes place. The police have also been informed.”
The Bracton Law Society said it “has taken the decision to remove those involved from committee… and indefinitely banned all those involved from the Society”.
The society sent a message to members, that reads: “Following the publication of a series of screenshots from a private group chat regarding some of the Society’s committee members and other students at the University of Exeter, we would like to take this opportunity to emphasize Bracton Law Society’s stance on racism and cultural appropriation.
“Bracton Law Society aims to create an environment that respects the dignity and rights of all students that are part of the society and wider University community regardless of their cultural or racial backgrounds and hopes to support them in all their future endeavours.
“The views expressed by the individuals involved do not in any way whatsoever represent the Society or its ethos. Bracton Law Society does not condone the nor tolerate such behaviour and will respond in line with the University of Exeter and The Students’ Guild policy.”
The society said it would be meeting with members, Students’ Guild and University of Exeter representatives to deliver a “just and appropriate response” and would be publishing a further statement in due course.
The Exeter Guild said: “We and the University of Exeter have zero tolerance for racist behaviour from anyone in the Exeter University Community.
“We take any allegation of this behaviour very seriously and are investigating the ones that have become public today since they were brought to our attention. Where members have broken the Guild’s or University codes of conduct, appropriate action will be taken.”
Law firm Hill Dickinson has retracted an offer of work to one of the students – who was due to start in September 2019 – following the allegations which the firm described as “deeply disturbing.”