By Max Kendix
Content warning: this article mentions the Holocaust, white supremacy, misogyny and other themes which many readers may find distressing.
Screenshots seen by Palatinate show a group of Durham students, some of whom have since graduated, making extremely racist and misogynistic comments. The comments, which discuss the Holocaust, rape, racial slurs and white supremacism, formed the basis of a decision by Durham Students’ Union last week to ban two student societies.
Some of the conversations are alleged to have involved leading members of the Durham University Free Market Association (DUFMA) and the Durham University Conservative Association (DUCA), which have been stripped of their society status as a result.
Durham Students’ Union said that the “fascism, racism, antisemitism and misogyny in the screengrabs is repulsive”.
The incident follows several major revelations of alleged misogyny and bigotry at Durham University over the past few months. The recent publication of screenshots from a group chat for incoming freshers led to a student having his offer withdrawn after an investigation by the university.
Allegations surrounding bigotry in the Durham Union Society were also put into the spotlight after a recent investigation by Palatinate. Numerous screenshots involving bigoted and misogynistic comments made by Durham students have also been shared on the Overheard at Durham Uni Facebook group.
Palatinate has decided not to publish the contents of the screenshots. Durham Students’ Union is working with the University in an ongoing investigation on the matter.
The comments, all from discussions on group chats, often involve extreme antisemitism, racism and white supremacism. They perpetuate antisemitic conspiracy theories, and appear to recommend the use of concentration camps, praising the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s operation of them.
Many messages explicitly incite violence against minorities and women, including through mentions of race war, specific numbers associated with white supremacy and slogans referencing Hitler.
In a message dated from 2019, an individual posted a “pass” to say the n-word, addressed to “all DUFMA members”. Other messages see individuals repeating the racial slur repeatedly, and joking about its use.
Other screenshots presented as evidence to the Students’ Union include examples of extreme and harmful misogyny. They involve extremely derogatory language about pregnant women and abortion, and extensive vulgar discussions over women, sex and pregnancy.
Responding to the screenshots and the decision by the Students’ Union, Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Durham University, said: “The majority of Student societies at Durham are registered with and supported by Durham Students’ Union, which is independent of Durham University.
“The University was kept abreast of the Students’ Union’s investigation into these two societies and the resulting decision. We agree with the Students’ Union that the nature of the comments as described by Durham Students’ Union are abhorrent and entirely unacceptable.
“Durham University is committed to freedom of expression within the law and encourages free expression and debate amongst our staff, students and visitors. However, all students have the right to study in an environment which is free from harassment and our commitment to protecting freedom of speech must be balanced with our safeguarding responsibilities to all students.”
Image: Lawrence OP via Creative Commons