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EXCLUSIVE: We spoke to the student who exposed THAT racist Exeter group chat

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On Monday, third-year Law student Arsalan Motavali posted screenshots of racist messages shared on the Bracton Law Society group chat, including jokes about gang rape socials in South Africa and buying blacks in bulk. 

The University of Exeter has suspended BLS pro bono officer Alex Crawford, former BLS General Secretary Matthew Bell, BLS General Secretary candidate Ash Chandraharan, first and second-year students Bailey Grant and James Cranstone. 

All members involved have been given a lifetime ban from BLS, the society is in the process of refunding End of year Gala tickets. After discussions with Exeter's Students' Guild, they feel it is inappropriate to hold the gala. 

Matthew Bell has had his job offer revoked by the Hill Dickinson law firm and RPC have dropped Alex Crawford as Brand Ambassador. Ash Chandraharan has also been fired from his tuition job at Explore Learning. 

A complaint was launched with the Students' Guild but due to the impending Bracton Law Society elections, Arsalan and his coursemates decided to go public with the information. They believed it was their only chance to be heard. 

Speaking exclusively to The National Student, former BLS publicity officer Arsalan told us only one person offered him an apology and others have begged him not to expose them. He told them that a full transcript will be submitted to the relevant authorities. 

Did anyone outside the ‘Dodgy Blokes Soc’ know they were racists?

No, I think it came as a total shock to everyone involved in BLS. Nobody expected individuals to make these comments whatsoever, but I don't think it makes them any less toxic. Closet racism seeds into a lot of aspects of livelihood and would be catastrophic in the legal field.

How difficult was it for you to keep quiet?

Very difficult. I guess I decided to take action when I could visibly see that there was no stopping point for any of these comments and they were being made more frequently and freely.

Who’s apologised?

Only 1 person involved in the group chat has sent me an apology, only Matthew Bell. He forwarded me his statement. I've had nothing but support from a tonne of Law students!

Do you wish you had done things differently?

I'm very proud of the way we handled things. I feel if I had done it earlier by myself it would have been from a place of anger - approaching George, Roman and Chris really re-affirmed it to me the steps we should take and how to do it.

Ash? POC

I think there is already a consensus about Ash, it is a deep shame to see a person of colour behave like that.

Any advice for someone thinking of exposing their course mates and worried about being abused if the post does not go viral?

 I think that's a very good point. If your university has a good support structure there is hopefully not a need to go public, if not it's vital you speak to someone. A conversation with close friends, a trusted teacher or anyone can make a world of a difference.

Did you expect to go viral?

I expected quite a large university interaction as those individuals were quite popular and well known - but absolutely not, I was not expecting nationwide coverage. I think it's down to the several incidents that have happened in Exeter - this one just sent it over the edge

Arsalan decided to go public with his post as he did not have complete trust in Exeter, "we felt this was our only hope." 

What if the post hinders job opportunities?

I hope not, I can explain myself in interviews - I'm not a person that's easily offended at all, but I simply don't stand for racial hatred of this magnitude. 

Fellow law student Chris Omanyondo also expressed his disgust at the chat:

"These are people who I shared the pitch with week in and week out, have been out with, who have smiled in my face for several months, only to find that in their eyes, I’m “a happy monkey more like."

"It’s scary to think that with such a stance against black people, Asians, and Muslims, that these individuals are responsible for organising one of the biggest societies on campus, and will potentially go on to be the kind of people who could be deciding whether you or your future children get the jobs you have worked so hard to get."

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