Three-quarters of bullying and harassment claims reported using the University’s Report and Support tool have been submitted by women, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Palatinate.
96 claims of bullying and harassment were submitted using the University’s Report and Support tool between October 2019, when the tool launched, and June 2021. 76 of these reports specified a gender, with 56 of such reports coming from female students or staff, amounting to 74% of reports where the gender of the reporting party was disclosed.
These figures include all reports submitted against staff and students, whether upheld, investigated, or resulted in a formal outcome, or not.
The University told Palatinate that it is “committed to making Durham a safer place to live, work and study”, and that its policies regarding bullying and harassment have been “developed mindful of the gender-based nature of much harassment”.
As well as the 76 reports that disclosed a gender, 83 of the reports disclosed the race of the reporting party, with 30% of these reports being made by BAME students or staff. The University website says that BAME and women-identifying members of the Durham community experience “disproportionately high levels of unwanted behaviour”.
Staff and students can choose to remain anonymous when making a report using the tool. However, when an anonymous report is made, the accused individual cannot be named. When students and staff report a named individual, they are required to disclose their own identity. In this case, the report is passed to trained staff and an investigation may follow.
Data published by the University reveals that 64% of reports made between October 2019 and February 2021 using the Report and Support tool were anonymous, and 36% of reports provided contact details. The University explains that there is a high proportion of anonymous reports “due to personal effects and burden of proof”.
Commenting on the figures, Durham University Womxn’s Association said they “believe that the university does not do enough to protect female students and staff members from harassment and bullying.
“There is a certain culture within Durham University that inspires and encourages condescension, belittlement, and mockery of women on this campus. If the university truly wants to make a difference to the experiences of female members of staff and students then it must restructure its reporting system.
“The university has become too reliant on student-led welfare teams within individual colleges to handle issues such as bullying. This university needs to implement a strong system that adequately investigates and punishes instances of bullying, especially bullying steeped in misogyny.”
Graham Towl, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Durham University, said: “We are committed to making Durham a safer place to live, work and study and have worked closely with the Students’ Union to develop policies which encourage a learning environment where we actively strive to tackle issues of bullying and harassment.
“We encourage students and staff to report matters of unwanted behaviours at Durham University. This is to ensure that they can be signposted to the right support, and if wanted, by the reporting party, we can go on to investigate too. Our policies have been developed mindful of the gender-based nature of much harassment.
“Clear and well publicised reporting mechanisms such as the Report and Support tool, robust policies and procedures and well-resourced teams to deal with reports in appropriate ways are essential and we have them in place. We are further investing in this area with a focus upon prevention”.
Image: Amana Moore