Durham SU ban two conservative societies after screenshots featuring leading members

By and

Durham Students’ Union has removed the Durham University Conservative Association (DUCA) and Durham University Free Market Association (DUFMA) from the Durham SU Student Group Register.

This means that they will be barred from using the Durham University name in their title, and will stop receiving funding from Durham SU.

The societies will also no longer have access to authorisation of events, access to physical spaces, email addresses, member data and banking. They will not be able to access facilities or freshers’ events.

In a statement, Gareth Hughes, the Durham SU Chief Executive, said that they had received “evidence of disturbing conversations from the leadership of some Durham SU student groups”, including some that have yet to be made public. 

“The fascism, racism, antisemitism and misogyny in the screengrabs is repulsive. They talk about how to ‘improve’ on Nazi genocide, seek to justify rape, and use the language of white supremacy. This is not ‘banter’. They are horrific.”

The decision comes after screenshots were published on the Facebook group Overheard at Durham Uni which allegedly showed members of DUCA and DUFMA making misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and racist comments. 

In the screenshots, participants refer to Islamic nations as “savage” and women as “whores”. Some of the screenshots also show participants mocking Durham SU President, Seun Twins.

“We will ensure that any person who has demonstrated such shameful behaviour does not occupy any position of leadership.”

Gareth Hughes, Durham SU Chief Executive

In his statement, Durham SU CEO, Gareth Hughes, said: “The disgusting things in these messages are not always attributable to individuals. I have asked Durham University for their support in launching appropriate disciplinary processes in cases where we can identify current students. We will ensure that any person who has demonstrated such shameful behaviour does not occupy any position of leadership.

“I am very clear, however, that although I don’t have enough evidence to start disciplinary action against individuals, I must act against the sufficient evidence we have of a culture of hate within the leadership of some of our student groups. We can’t in good faith promote these social opportunities to students without a decisive response.

All recent members of DUFMA and DUCA will be invited to share their experiences, in confidence. I’m sure that many positive stories will come forward, as all our student groups manage fantastic events and create wonderful friendships. I am also confident, given the evidence I have seen, that there are more stories of unacceptable behaviour and we owe it to students to fully investigate the problem. We will complete this exercise before we proceed with the registration process for new student groups.

“I hope that students will work together and submit an application to start a conservative student group and a free market student group again very soon. Durham SU is a stronger organisation with thriving and diverse political student groups. We apologise, again, for the harm caused to students.”

The former President of the Durham University Conservative Association 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.”

Image: Tim Packer via Wikimedia Commons

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