The incident happened last week on Wednesday 18th October, following a class-wide topic selection assignment for a first year Computer Science module of approximately 250 students.
An unknown student or students defaced the shared Google spreadsheet for selecting a presentation topic with offensive remarks.
Some particular upsetting examples of the defaced sheet:
It has been reported that in addition to these racial slurs and homophobic remarks, Nazi imagery was also used to deface the document. The lecturer quickly removed the google spreadsheet and sent out an email to all those in the module, as seen below:
Although the incident was initially dismissed as childish, many students who were present to the incident personally raised concerns to the University and Union about the unacceptable behaviour. The lecturer then responded to the incident, stating:
Like many of you, I was deeply upset by the behaviour of possibly just one student yesterday who went well beyond the realm of childish behaviour and decided to put racially and sexually offensive comments into our shared spreadsheet, and alter the content of the sheet. [..] It was undignified and offensive. As a disciplinary offence, it is now outside of my hands. The University authorities are handling it.
Students have been informed of the University’s stance on the matter by Professor Mark French, who will be leading the investigation on behalf of the Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering. He declared that they are taking the matter extremely seriously and see such behaviour as unacceptable.
In an email, it is stated that should this be a Southampton student who is responsible, the perpetrator will be referred to the University Discipline Committee, where termination of the student’s degree programme is a sanction that can be applied. However, there was no confirmation that this would be the guaranteed consequence.
The University has opened a formal investigation, in which they promise to report the outcome of the investigations to students.
At last night’s Black History Month discussion, arranged by Stand Up To Racism Society and SUSU, it was proposed by many students and local residents that the Union should create a platform for hate crimes to be directly reported and monitored, so that students and staff members at the University have a known and established procedure to follow.