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Disciplinary procedures (non-academic) - CS082001

Several students in a Halls of Residence got into a dispute about noise. Over the course of an evening, a number of messages were exchanged via a group WhatsApp chat, which included offensive language and explicit sexual content.

A complaint was made, and the provider took action under its disciplinary procedures against five of the participants.

One of the students complained to us. They had admitted sending the messages. They said that they had been drunk and that others in the chat had responded with positive emojis to their messages. The provider decided that the student had breached its Student Code of Conduct, and suspended the student for one year. The student complained to us that the process followed had not been fair, and that the penalty was disproportionate.

We decided that the complaint was Not Justified. Even though the messages were not exchanged on a forum run by the provider, it was still entitled to consider them under its Code of Conduct. It was reasonable for the Disciplinary Panel to consider the case against all five students together to ensure that there was consistency in the decision-making. It was reasonable to hear from each student privately about any personal circumstances they felt had affected their behaviour. We were satisfied that the penalty applied was consistent with the severity of the offence, which the student had admitted. The provider had taken account of the student’s statement that they were sorry for their actions, and had not applied a more severe penalty.