Edinburgh University gym boss is sacked after offensive ‘rape’ message

Gym boss who ‘said a woman should be raped for failing to turn up to class’ is sacked after Edinburgh University student outrage

  • Senior gym boss Ross Brain has been sacked for offensive ‘rape’ messages
  • Sent in a work WhatsApp group at Edinburgh University’s Sport & Exercise club 
  • It discussed potential punishments for a woman who missed an exercise class 
  • More than 800 students signed an open letter demanding Brain be dismissed

An Edinburgh University gym boss has been fired for suggesting a woman who missed class should be ‘raped’ as punishment, after students signed an open letter demanding he be given the sack. 

Senior instructor Ross Brain was dismissed without notice by the top university on Wednesday after the offensive messages were made public.

The messages, on a WhatsApp group chat between colleagues at Edinburgh University’s Sport and Exercise club, discussed potential punishments for a woman who missed an exercise class. 

A message that appears to have been sent by Brain stated: ‘Lets rape her. Or give her the choice of 600 burpees or rape’.

Edinburgh University gym Ross Brain has been sacked after offensive ‘rape’ messages discussing potential punishments for a woman who missed an exercise class were made public

When junior staff in the group, mostly female, ignored the rape jibe, a further message, purportedly send from Brain’s account, said: ‘No-one up for this then?’ 

Students at the prestigious university have slated the response to Brain’s alleged conduct, and said supposed ‘zero-tolerance’ policies had not been ‘translated into action’.

More than 800 students signed an open letter to principal and vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson demanding Brain be sacked.

Although the university refused to comment at the time, it has since emerged that he was sacked on Wednesday. 

The open letter stated students and staff across the university felt ‘unwelcome, unsafe and unsatisfied’ due to the university’s disciplinary process following reports of Brain’s alleged conduct in January.

One of the organisers, Rosie Taylor, 21, a second year Biological Sciences student, criticised the university’s lack of transparency and speed of response to the allegations. 

Ms Taylor said: ‘This issue is not limited to one individual, or one message, it is a systemic failure to create, implement and uphold transparent or truly zero-tolerance policies to sexual harassment and violence. 

More than 800 students signed an open letter to principal and vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson demanding Brain be sacked

‘This case, which began in January, should not have required student intervention in order to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

‘Whilst the University of Edinburgh is loud and proud in appearing to support the NoExcuse campaign, this has not been translated to action.’   

Director of Sport and Exercise Jim Aitken, stated: ‘The official investigation has concluded and that Ross Brain has been dismissed from his post as Gym Manager with immediate effect.’

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: ‘We are aware of the letter and are engaging with student representatives on the matter.

‘We want to assure our students and staff that we take incidents such as this very seriously – the use of such language is abhorrent and has no place in this university.

‘We do not, however, comment on the detail or outcome of individual cases.’

A message that appears to have been sent by Mr Brain stated: ‘Lets rape her. Or give her the choice of 600 burpees or rape’ 

An investigation was launched but colleagues at the Pleasance centre are understood to feel let down at a perceived lack of action three months on.   

Mr Brain has been accused of sending the message shortly before Christmas to the staff chat to arrange logistics. 

The group is understood to have been discussing possible forfeits to be imposed on a woman who signed up to a six week exercise course but failed to show that morning. 

Concerned staff reported the messages to the university’s HR department in January but were left unaware of any action being taken.

A source at the gym said: ‘It’s like they’re trying to brush it under the rug. People are feeling let down. The university is loud and proud about its zero tolerance policies but a lot of people want action on this – they feel abandoned.’

A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: ‘We are aware of the letter and are engaging with student representatives on the matter. We want to assure our students and staff that we take incidents such as this very seriously’ 

Staff were left struggling on in a ‘toxic’ environment with no faith in protocols if they report misogynistic or inappropriate behaviour, the Edinburgh Evening News reported.

The gym source added: ‘Staff were told there’d be an investigation in January and have heard no more.

‘There are off-hand sexist remarks particularly working in the fitness industry that are leftover attitudes that haven’t made their way out yet.

‘One senior manager apparently told female members of staff they must wear tight leggings because ‘it looks more professional’. 

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