Durham’s Senate Discipline Committee has recently considered three cases concerning student discipline: resulting in two fixed-term exclusions following serious breaches of the non-academic misconduct policy.
One student, who was due to attend a Senate Disciplinary Committee Hearing following a serious breach of the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy, withdrew from the University prior to the hearing.
In addition to these new cases, the University has expelled seven students and issued four year-long exclusions since September: three of which were for sexual misconduct.
The most recent Committee also considered a case from Michaelmas term, where a student was given a fixed-term exclusion for a serious breach of the Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy.
Previously few reports of sexual misconduct at Durham University have resulted in disciplinary action. The Sexual Misconduct and Violence Annual Trend Monitoring Paper (2019) found that while 262 disclosures of sexual violence were reported during the five-year period, the institution expelled a maximum of 16 students and staff members after an investigation.
The paper also indicated that the majority of victims chose not to make formal disclosures against alleged perpetrators; the University requires formal disclosures to start the investigation process.
In 2021 Durham vowed to crack down on racism and sexual assault after the University expelled three students: two for sexual misconduct and one for racist social media comments.
Last year, Durham University hired two former police officers as permanent investigators of misconduct, one of whom has particular experience in cases of sexual violence. Durham is the first UK university to have two investigators and one of only three – alongside Bath and Bristol – with any at all.
Durham’s Senate Discipline Committee said: “As part of our drive to ensure we create a respectful and inclusive University culture, we expect staff and students to adhere to the University’s values on behaviour and our regulations on conduct If a student breaks the law or breaches University regulations, we take swift and decisive action.
“This approach has seen an increase in cases reported to us, but we see this as our community growing in confidence that we will act appropriately in response to such reports, and we are resolved that it will not deter us from our commitment.”
Image: Thomas Tomlinson