Several law students have expressed frustration at the Bracton Law Society’s (BLS) president’s relationship with a disgraced student who shared racist comments in a WhatsApp group chat last year.
Two BAME students, both studying law, have voiced their disappointment that BLS president Lily Hayes was dating a member of the group chat that was exposed in March 2018. The student subsequently faced disciplinary action for his involvement. The group, named ‘Dodgy Blokes Soc’, included several BLS members who shared racist and misogynist messages, often with violent overtones.
One of the law students told Exeposé that the BLS president’s relationship was widely known inside the law social circle.
“After second year of university and the whole incident with BLS, it came to my attention that the BLS president was in a relationship with one of the boys in the group chat. People would talk about how he would come to Exeter to see his girlfriend.”
Another student also expressed disappointment about the president’s relationship. “Lily gave interviews to campus magazines in which she tried distancing BLS from the scandal, and suggesting that the BLS was suffering negatively at the actions of a minority.”
The source described Hayes’ continued contact with the student following the WhatsApp group leak as “frustrating” and “disrespectful.”
They elaborated: “How can a law society redeem itself from such big a scandal and attempt to be inclusive and welcoming while the president maintained personal ties to those involved with the incident?”
The source also described Hayes’ continued contact with the student following the WhatsApp group leak as “frustrating” and “disrespectful.”
Hayes, 22, was elected president on 2 July, less than two months after the screenshots from the chat were leaked. During an October interview with HerCampus, Hayes distanced BLS from the members involved in the scandal, saying “I think a lot of people on campus and wider have been very understanding that this wasn’t a Bracton Law Society issue, that it was a group of individuals, who made up 1.5% of the society last year.”
The WhatsApp group contained racist, sexist and homophobic messages. After a BAME student was stabbed, a message was sent to the group that remarked “I wish the jabs finished him.”
The University of Exeter suspended the student and the others involved in a group chat on 20 March 2018.
Those involved were also suspended as members of the Students’ Guild.
The offending comments were made in a group chat involving some Bracton Law Society committee members. A member of the chat made multiple screenshots of the messages public – posting them on Facebook and Twitter.
The Guild said at the time that it “does not tolerate any form of racism, sexism or hate crime and condemns any such actions with full disciplinary action taken as appropriate.
They added “The Guild is currently carrying out a major investigation in conjunction with the University.”
When contacted by Exeposé, a spokesperson from the Bracton Law Society responded:
“The personal relationships of the committee have no bearing on the work of Bracton Law Society this year. The committee has worked hard to move past the events of last year in the events and activity that we have provided for our members, and we are committed to continuing this until the society is wound up at the end of this year, to be replaced with a new law society next year.
Hayes said she “can understand the concerns of those that have expressed them”.
“This year’s committee has fully cooperated with both the Guild, the University and the joint transition board throughout the year and has provided all information that has been requested of us.”
In a statement to Exeposé, Hayes said she “can understand the concerns of those that have expressed them”.
But she continued that “all year the committee and I have worked hard to make the society more inclusive than it was 12 months ago. This year’s committee was the first committee to introduce events with other societies such as ACS and Women and Law, as well improving accessibility to existing events by having all applications to be reviewed anonymously.
“Myself and the rest of the committee has been thoroughly dedicated this year to carrying out all of their roles with respect for others as well as promoting equality, diversity and fairness.”
A Guild spokesperson commented: “We understand the concern of members of the BAME community, but the Bracton Law Society and the committee have been subject to high levels of scrutiny this year and we not seen [sic] any causes for concern.”
They further said: “The personal relationships of committee members are not the purview of the Students’ Guild and we respect the right of individuals to a private life away from their volunteering responsibilities. The only exception to [t]his would be when we become aware of improprieties in relation to the running of the society as a result of those relationships.”