Freshers greeted by chaos

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During Freshers’ Week this year, Freshers were greeted to Durham with a host of administrative and welfare issues. Confusion regarding the number of Freshers arriving in Durham put pressure on a number of college’s Freshers’ Representative Committees (Freps) as well as college staff and caterers. 

The University made the decision to reopen Riverside accommodation on the main site of Hild Bede College less than two weeks before Freshers’ Week began. In a message from Hild Bede SCR President, Freps were told “we’re looking at a potential 160 extra students, and with that, some very significant challenges around how we run the week.”

In light of this news, the Hild Bede Frep team made the decision to attempt recruiting 10-15 last-minute freps in order to manage the increase in numbers. They were also required to restructure Freshers’ Week in preparations for the entire Caedmon complex to reopen including the bar, hall and dining rooms.

Due to increased numbers of students, the University also chose to open other college’s rooms which were intended to be closed for this academic year in order to carry out maintenance. 36 of the 90 rooms in Deerness Block at Van Mildert College were scheduled to be unoccupied but these plans have since been postponed and the rooms have been allocated to incoming students.

“we’re looking at a potential 160 extra students”

hild bede scr president

The University responded “We made the decision in early September to re-open some accommodation on the Hild Bede Riverside site, in order to ensure that all first-year undergraduate students who wanted to were able to benefit from living in College-managed accommodation in Durham City, having experienced an exceptionally high demand for University accommodation. 

“The Hild Bede college community responded brilliantly to enable the accommodation to be made ready at short notice, and to prepare to welcome additional numbers of freshers to the College.”

Upon arrival at Durham, many students experienced administrative issues: including extensive delays for students receiving campus cards. Typically, students are able to collect their campus cards and finish enrolment after move-in day, in many cases it took the whole week for Freshers to receive their campus cards. This caused stress and confusion amongst students, with one first-year remarking “I have my first induction lecture on Tuesday and don’t even know how I’ll be able to get into the department building without a campus card”.

On Tuesday 27th September, three full days after Freshers had moved into college, an email sent to students at Van Mildert College said “We know that many of you are still waiting for your campus cards and we’re working hard to resolve this as quickly as possible with CIS and Student Registry.”

“This is unacceptable, our community does not tolerate discrimination in any form”

dr jon warren

Some students were asked to move rooms mid-Freshers’ Week to a completely new college after already moving into a college-allocated room with all their belongings. A student who was told to move from St Aidan’s College to Van Mildert College described the process as “disorientating” as they felt left out of their corridor’s activities and chose to continue to participate in the Freshers’ Week events at St Aidan’s College instead of opting to purchase a brand-new Freshers’ Week event ticket for Van Mildert events too.

The University responded to these issues “Due to the exceptionally high demand for University accommodation, there were delays with the college allocation and registration processes affecting some students. 

“We are also aware that there have been some problems with students not receiving their campus cards is a timely fashion. We are sorry for the frustration and inconvenience this has caused and have been working hard to resolve these issues both for current students and for next year.”

During Freshers’ Week, one of the organised events at St Cuthbert’s Society had reports of “racially, sexually, and politically offensive comments” being drawn onto students’ shirts during a white tee-shirt party. 

“Welcome and Orientation Week has been an overwhelmingly positive time for our new students”

durham university spokesperson

In an email to all St Cuthbert students, the college’s Vice-Principal, Dr Jon Warren described being “shocked and disappointed” by the reports. The email continued, “This is unacceptable, our community does not tolerate discrimination in any form.

“Any incident of this kind will be taken with the utmost seriousness and a misconduct investigation will be carried out. Any student found to have committed discriminatory acts will be subject to disciplinary sanctions. Such sanctions can include being asked to leave college and expulsion from the University.”

A Durham University spokesperson said: “Welcome and Orientation Week has been an overwhelmingly positive time for our new students, and for the University as a whole. The University arrival period, which includes the Welcome and orientating Week, saw the arrival of some 7000 new undergraduate and postgraduate students to Durham. Over arrivals, College staff and Frep teams gave a splendid welcome to the Durham community, and much positive feedback was received about the overall welcome experience from parents and student alike.”

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