University suspends student following online “death threats”

Six others given reprimands, told to write letters of apology and attend an anti-bullying course

Suspension. Photo cred: Harry Gunning

To protect identities, the complainants in this article shall be known as student X and student Y.

The suspended student shall be referred to as student A, whilst the other six reprimanded students shall be referred to by student B, C, D, E, F, and G respectively.

The University of St Andrews has suspended one student and reprimanded six others after they made indirect threats against two other students online.

This was the result of a three month investigation, which was first handled by Police Scotland for close to a month.

Police Scotland then passed the investigation back to the University after they concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to constitute a “direct threat” against the complainants, as the messages were sent indirectly through a Facebook group chat that students X and Y were not members of.

Student A will be allowed to return to the University for the academic year 2018-2019 when both complainants, who are currently in their third year, will still be in attendance of St Andrews in their final year.

The other six reprimanded by the University were ordered to write letters of apology to the complainants as well as take part in a anti-bullying course run by the University.

In a Facebook group chat, the seven are alleged to have made a number of serious as well as minor threats.

Both complainants stated that they felt unsafe as one of the group chat members was a former flatmate who still had keys to access their residency at the time.

Student A had encouraged throwing “battery acid” in student X’s face, they continued to describe wishing to do it, “Indian rejected marriage style.”

The suspended student A had further remarked, “Let’s f*** up a bitch … Let’s f*** up [X] and [Y] … I could ruin their lives.”

Whilst student C who still had access to the complainant’s flat had replied “ill give you the key, it’s cool.”

Student E in the group chat had stated “im [sic] always a slut for murder.”

Student B had replied “same same and same.”

Another group chat message from student G read, “I think it’s time to plot an elaborate revenge on [X] … No more hypotheticals.”

Prior to this, student G had also expressed desire to put “hair remover in [X’s] shampoo … if that is going too far … perhaps not.”

Student F also encouraged this as they stated “I think that’s a good idea … imagine chunks of [X’s] hair falling out.”

Speaking to The Saint about their experience, Student Y said, “I spent a good few weeks where I would not go anywhere in town alone. So I would spend a lot of time in our flat, locked in my room.

“We both bought locks for our rooms, I would only go out with other people, I wouldn’t go out on my own especially at night, there was a lot of fear of running into them and there being an altercation.”

Student Y further asserted that “the messages were explicitly death threats or explicitly death threats towards us.

“They were very creative, very gruesome, and off the cuff threats that were very unexpected and so off the mark you question how someone would even think of them without kind of intending to follow through with the mean-spirited actions.”

While student X said that they felt threatened because “one of the people in the chat had direct access to our flat and were encouraged to come in. Also the threats were violent and crude, there were many of them and they were directed at me and Y.”

Student X further described an alleged altercation that they had with student E outside of the Union where they repeatedly shouted expletives at them and blew cigarette smoke in their faces.

Student X stated that the incident made them feel “scared and violated.”

They were very creative, very gruesome

The two complainants went on to describe how they suffered academically as a result of their experiences.

Student X asserted, “We wouldn’t be able to attend lectures … I had to get an extension on two of my essays, so I had to speak to my tutor about that.”

Student Y said that “Academically, I had to get an extension on one of my essays, because of stress and anxiety not being able to attend class.”

“I had a specific class where I would have to go there by myself and come back by myself. One of the perpetrators in the group chat I would frequently run into on my way, so I stopped attending those classes because I was afraid of running into them.”

Other remarks in the group chat ranged from minor to the more bizarre.

The suspended student A also threatened to urinate in their shampoo when he allegedly gained access to the flat while X and Y were not in their residency, and further claimed to have “put my gum in their orange juice.”

Meanwhile student D asked him to “disrespect” the complainants and “do something f***** up” whilst he had access to the flat.

Student F also wished to gain access to the flat, as they remarked, “Give me the key … I still have thrush … And its contagious … I’ll stick her mascara wand in my vagina.”

“I’ve stopped putting canesten on my vagina … so I can give [X] thrush.”

Upon finding out about the online threats in March 2017, from a friend who was a non-participating member of the group chat, student X and Y reported the messages to Student Services, who then referred the matter to police.

Following a police investigation of the online threats the police informed students X and Y of the result: “Not particularly tasteful comments however none of what I’ve seen constitutes a threat. In fact none of the comments have been made directly to either of you, the complainers.”

“Whilst I can appreciate how these comments could be distressing, there is nothing contained within them that constitutes a crime and there will not therefore be further criminal proceedings.”

Police Scotland then referred the case back to the University.

Student Y expressed disappointment at the police decision, “I wish the police, you know, could have done a little bit more.”

I think it goes beyond bullying

While student X said, “I don’t think they really took it seriously because it was an online situation.”

Both complainants were offered temporary accommodation by the University as they stated they did not feel safe in their current residency.

They both declined this offer and instead opted to purchase individual locks for their rooms prior to moving residency entirely.

Student Y remarked of the suspended student, “He’s one of those people that you’re nice to because you’re scared of what will happen if you’re not nice to him.”

Student X said “I’m definitely worried about bumping into them if they’re having like a wild night out or something. I just think their inhibitions to verbally or physically abuse or harass us will be a lot higher.”

A final decision was made on 17 May, when both complainants were informed of the result by the University.

The University took the process under the highest disciplinary procedures for non-academic misconduct, stages two and three. This resulted in the suspension of one student and the reprimanding of the six others.

Stage two of non-academic misconduct is Director-level action which may result in the requirement to submit a written apology to those affected by the misconduct among a number of other possible disciplinary actions.

For student A, the case was referred to stage three of non-academic misconduct which is conducted by the Senior Vice-Principal (Proctor) level. This may even result in expulsion from the University as well as other disciplinary action such as suspension.

Student X remarked that they were unhappy with the final decision taken by the University, as they stated, “I don’t think [the decision] offers us anymore security.”

They continued, “If this was at my former school, they would’ve been removed immediately, the fact that the University has a lot more leniency to such a large issue with such a big group of people baffles me to be honest.”

“I think that it goes beyond bullying, I think it is actually threats and violence. I think it crosses the line when they discuss breaking and entering and physically harming someone it’s not just people bitching about each other. It’s like wanting to commit a crime and that should be taken seriously online.”

Prior to submitting a formal apology as required by the University, student A reached out to one of the complainants on their own volition via social media.

Student A wrote, “I just want to say that I am so sorry about this entire situation. I said some heinous things and it is indefensible. I am so sorry if you ever felt threatened by my words or if it affected you.

“I am not mad that you reported me, I am angry that I ever said such terrible things.”

“To cut it short, I hope you can forgive me.”

Student X said in response “I won’t accept an apology [from the group chat members], because I don’t believe that it’s genuine. I don’t think it ever would be.”

I don’t think this [decision] offers us anymore security

A spokesman for the University of St Andrews said, “We are confident that the University deals with discipline and risk matters promptly and fairly.”

“Fairness is in fact one of the things that can cause what might appear to be a delay: it would be unacceptable, for example, to call a student to a disciplinary meeting without giving them due notice.”

“Equally, a student in distress needing assistance should take precedence for a University officer’s time over a student who may require to be disciplined.”

The spokesperson further stated that, “There can be delays to University disciplinary processes in cases where we must await the outcome of police investigations.

“Our discipline processes are kept under review and improved if necessary. Any cases of reported abuse are

followed up and a small number of students have been disciplined at the highest levels for such matters in the last five years.”

Student X stated of the suspended student A, “I don’t believe his suspension for a year is really enough, especially given [A’s] behaviour in the past as well.

“The idea that he is going to be back here in my fourth year makes me very uneasy. The other people involved, them being involved in a University project about speaking out against bullying again I don’t think is very effective.”

They continued, “I don’t think this caliber of people should be able to study at such a reputable institution. I don’t understand why they’re still here to be honest.”

A spokesperson for Police Scotland said, “Police in St Andrews received a complaint of threats being made indirectly via a private online chat room to two female students in March 2017. Inquiries were carried out and no crime was found to have been committed – however the matter was referred to the university for consideration of any action it may find it appropriate to take.”

The Saint has reached out to students A, B, C, D, E, F and G for comments.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.