Several members of the former Durham University Conservative Association (DUCA) have resigned from the society’s executive committee, and have pledged to form a new society that “presents a legitimate conservative voice on campus”, in an attempt to distance themselves from allegations made by Durham Students’ Union and a statement released by the ex-President of the society.
In a statement published on Facebook, the former Treasurer, Secretary, Events Officer and Publicity Officer of DUCA said: “We are absolutely appalled by the contents of recent accusations made about the former Durham University Conservative Association by the Durham Students’ Union. Bigotry should have no place anywhere, least of all at Durham University and therefore we are disappointed to learn that we were representatives of a society that allegedly allowed such views to fester among its membership.
“Entering the Association last academic year as freshers, we were welcomed by reasonable, moderate individuals who shared a passion for conservatism. The recent allegations in the Durham Students’ Union’s letter, if true, have suggested that a limited few held a genuine extremism that we were unaware of. It now appears that there was a failure to properly hold members and their associates to account.
“We would like to emphasise that these are radical and hateful views and are not consistent with our modern conservative ideology. We utterly condemn the comments that are being alleged.
“Any prior statements made by the former Durham University Conservative Association were not released with our consent.”
The former DUCA President declined to comment on this matter.
Durham Students’ Union made the decision to remove DUCA and Durham University Free Market Association (DUFMA) from the Durham SU Student Group Register following evidence they received of “disturbing conversations” from some members of the leadership of the two societies, which included comments that Durham SU described as fascist, racist, antisemitic and misogynistic.
The decision by Durham SU means that the two societies will be barred from using the Durham University name in their title, and will stop receiving funding from Durham SU.
They will also no longer have access to authorisation of events, access to physical spaces, email addresses, member data and banking, and will not be able to access facilities or freshers’ events.
This has prompted the former Durham University Conservative Association to change its name to Durham Unionist Conservative Association on Facebook.
The former President of DUCA said: “The SU refuses to share details about the screenshots that they have, and have not given us any opportunity to respond or appeal this decision. From what we do know, these statements have nothing to do with the current exec. If the comments are as bad as the SU claims, we hope the SU will take decisive action against those individuals.
“We utterly condemn misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and racism – they have no place in DUCA or in Durham University.
“No issues were reported to our society or any members of our exec by our members, or anyone else, nor have we been given the opportunity to address the alleged screenshots held by the SU. We are always happy to listen to feedback and work alongside the SU to address any reported issues, yet they did not give the exec an opportunity to address any issues prior to this decision.
“The DSU have removed the only right-leaning political societies in Durham; we believe this is due to their own personal politics. We also understand that the Durham University Liberal Democrats no longer exist as an DSU society, so the Durham University Labour Club and Durham University Marxists are the only political societies left at Durham University – which is probably the most political diversity the SU is willing to tolerate.”
Palatinate understands that the current executive committee of DUCA have the right to an appeals process and have been informed of how this works by Durham SU.
Last year, Durham SU temporarily suspended the Co-Chairs of Durham University Labour Club (DULC) for allegedly breaking charity laws after organising canvassing in anticipation of December’s General Election. However, Durham SU revised its guidance for student societies meaning the Co-Chairs could be reinstated.
James Adamson, DULC Internal Campaigns Officer, told Palatinate: “DULC completely supports the decision from the SU towards stamping out bigotry within Durham University. Issues of misogyny, racism and antisemitism within these student societies have gone unchecked for far too long. We hope that all those affected by this abuse receive the support they require and feel a greater sense of safety following this decision.
“It is important that political discourse is possible in university and that free speech is protected. However, this does not give individuals free reign to spread abhorrent hate and abuse. We hope that new societies surrounding Conservatism or Free Market ideologies are set up, and that they know that intolerance and bigotry is unacceptable.”
Image: David Gray via Flickr