“Homophobic, reductive and offensive”: Durham backtracks after defining ‘nonce’ as homophobic


Durham’s new College Sport Code of Conduct for Spectators, published in Michaelmas term, included the line: “Homophobic chanting, such using ‘nonce’ and ‘rent boy’ will not be tolerated in any way.” 

Deborah Acheampong, Durham Student Union’s Welfare and Liberation Officer and Dan Lonsdale, President, claimed they raised the definition as a problem in a committee meeting before the guidelines were published and that the minutes indicated that this would be amended. 

They told Palatinate, “Nonce is not a homophobic slur and any suggestion that it might be is in itself entirely homophobic, reductive and offensive to the community that such a document seeks to protect in the first place – points which were raised within the meeting. Such behaviour from official university leadership does not set a good precedent. 

“We hope Team Durham will amend the document and continue to treat such matters with greater attention and care.” 

Quentin Sloper, Director of Student Enrichment at Durham University, said: “We do not tolerate any form of abuse or intimidation within our University community. “The College Sport Code of Conduct for Spectators was put in place, following extensive consultation with our student leaders, to help address concerning behaviours by some spectators at sports matches, particularly College floodlit fixtures. 

“There was no intention to cause offense. It is pleasing that since the Code’s introduction, along with other measures, there have been no reported behavioural concerns at College Floodlit fixtures this academic year. 

There was no intention to cause offence

Quentin Sloper, Director of Student Enrichment at Durham University

“We believe this clearly demonstrates the positive impact the Code has had on spectators’ behaviour. 

“We remain open to reviewing the Code where appropriate – the intention has always been to review and refresh it, with our student leaders, at least every year. 

“In the light of the views shared with Palatinate, we will contact Durham Students’ Union to understand what changes to the Code officers feel are appropriate. 

“We will consider any proposals with colleagues in the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit.” 

In one Facebook post, a student said, “MC and Team Durham classing Nonce, a word which means someone who commits predatory sexual crime or activity, as homophobic is one of the most implicitly homophobic things I’ve ever seen. The idea of predatory homosexuality is clearly very alive in these people’s heads to get the ops so wrong when trying to do right.” 

College sports club captains and Common Room Presidents were involved in drafting the College Sport Code of Conduct for spectators as part of the consultation process before publication. 

The Code came after a spate of “concerning” behavioural incidents in 2022. Spectators of a rugby game between Hatfield and Castle in February 2022 described physical violence, pitch invasions, drunk students manning the cordons, and urination on the stands. Fans from both colleges were banned for the rest of the season. A month later, Van Mildert football spectators were also prohibited from attending after claims that “Van Mildert supporters repeatedly shouted ‘paedophile’, and sung chants referring to sexual abuse” at a Floodlit game. 

Last academic year, students could only drink alcohol from Maiden Castle’s bar while on sporting grounds. The new code asks spectators to refrain from taking alcohol onto the side of the pitch, and emphasises that chants are not to be “homophobic, racist or misogynistic” or “anti-social in nature and targeted towards individuals”.


2 thoughts on ““Homophobic, reductive and offensive”: Durham backtracks after defining ‘nonce’ as homophobic

  • Wow, this is terrible. So is the fact that they didn’t immediately recognise the problem, remove the reference and apologise profusely – instead they just describe the criticisms as “views” and imply that they need the SU to write their documents for them to avoid being grossly homophobic.

    Oh but they do make a point to say “There was no intention to cause offense.” oh thanks, I thought you did try to cause offence! (((sarcasm)))

    • I absolutely agree. It’s a disgustingly blasé and ironic response to what is either thinly veiled homophobia or gross incompetence.

      You wouldn’t think that it’d be hard to make an apology for what is evidently an error on the university’s part, especially from an individual whose role is to ‘further student enrichment’, which surely involves fostering an inclusive environment – something Quentin Sloper doesn’t seem to be doing very well here at all.

      Indeed, the message I’m taking from this is that the university doesn’t give a damn and would rather shift accountability for their actions onto other groups; now, where have we seen this before?

      Poor form.


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