University condemns “abhorrent comments” on freshers’ group chats

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Content warning: this article mentions sexual assault, racism and other themes which some readers may find upsetting.

Durham University has condemned the “abhorrent comments” reportedly made by incoming freshers on several group chats. 

The messages included concerns over being accused of rape, suggestions of using female students for sex, and approving comments about the death of George Floyd. These were posted as screenshots in the Overheard at Durham Uni Facebook group. 

Other screenshots seen by Palatinate used explicitly homophobic language and further discussion of rape allegations against participants. 

“a testament to the kind of environment Durham has fostered”

Joint statement by Durham student groups

A joint statement issued by the Durham Womxn’s Association, Durham People of Colour Association, It’s Not OK Durham and the Durham Intersectional Feminism Society, calls for the University to take “serious action over the messages”.

The statement said the comments “make light of, and actualise, situations which many students constantly fear and face. Violence comes in many forms and this is one of them; the normalised discussion and treatment of womxn (particularly working-class and womxn of colour) and Black lives as objects and challenges, rather than people of equal worth.”

The groups believe the situation “reflects systemic problems that exist in Durham” and argue that “In order to protect ALL students and prove that Black Lives Matter, these students should not be welcome back on campus”.

“For students to feel entitled to share such statements in the public eye is a testament to the kind of environment Durham has fostered – one where people feel like this is a safe space for targeted abuse, whether that be sexual violence or racism.”

“We will take action to ensure that those involved will have no place at Durham University.”

Jeremy Cook, Durham University Pro-Vice-Chancellor

In response to the allegations, Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), told Palatinate: “We utterly condemn the behaviour demonstrated in these posts, which violates the values and behaviours that we uphold as a University community.

“We have instigated an immediate investigation by our student disciplinary team. If these posts are found to be genuine and attributable, we will take action to ensure that those involved will have no place at Durham University.

“Our students are regularly reminded to display positive and collegial conduct, and exercise responsibility and respect for others, particularly through their social media interactions.”

The joint statement from student groups called Durham’s statement “an encouraging start” though noted that: “it is hard to believe that an ‘investigation’ will provide the change needed when their previous investigations have shown no results, time and time again showing the university does not prioritise the mental health of womxn and minority students.

“We ask that they fulfil their promises to investigate and provide support, and do this in a manner which upholds principles of respect and equality.

“It is the responsibility of the university to ensure that violence like this does not enter our space.  In reference to recent incidents of racism within Durham We have seen NO action on the racism and misogyny that had been inflicted on them by other students.

 “Resources and mechanisms should be in place, and improved, to ensure the safety and confidence of all students.

“As students we plan to protest and resist these behaviours, now and for as long as we have to.” 

Durham University said that “any of our students who have been affected by this social media activity are advised to contact welfare support or their colleges who will be able to offer them help and support.”

Multiple college welfare teams have commented on the Facebook post asking people to get in touch if they have been affected by the issues raised.

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6 thoughts on “University condemns “abhorrent comments” on freshers’ group chats

  • Students will lie and say it’s a joke. BUT fact is it should never have been said .Durham university will find a way around this matter and no students will be thrown out. The individuals who wrote and commented so be instantly dismissed from university. In my opinion shows how they think are they dangerous to society?. So lower class women can be abused????? No nobody should ever be subjected to this behaviour. Black lives matter yes they do infact all lives matters. I’ve seen over the years students with rich parents don’t care for the city or lower class people they mock the north east so why are they here.. no matter what people’s background or colour they all want to study and are just as equal. Durham university students get away with a lot it’s sickening time for big change

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  • For some reason there is an element of 18 year old boys who are coming out of all-male public schools with no idea how to deal with or speak to women. Hence the appalling chat and comments, it’s mostly a pathetic attempt to be funny or entertaining to the other ‘boys’. Schools (and parents) really need to deal with this and very firmly drill into these privileged boys what is and is not acceptable, and what is right and wrong. It really should not be the job of universities to try and ‘fix’ these young men in the first few weeks of arrival at university. It should have been done LONG before by their schools AND their parents.

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    • No it isn’t up to the university to fix them it is their responsibility to boot them out though.

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  • It shows a lot of the standard of people brought to durham. Also the university is clearly at tipping point in terms of how it reacts to this and deals with it. Either it does the right thing or its reputation will plummet further

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    • Agreed.Daughter rejected Warwick after their dreadful handling of the ‘rape group chat’ and felt very uncomfortable when researching Durham and its apparent indifference to this type of behaviour.UCL’s gain.

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  • The problem at Durham is that the university does not boot these students out.Exeter kicked out the law students who made similar comments.Durham almost condones this behaviour, hence the comment above about public school boys not knowing how to interact, no excuses please.

    Reply

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