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Durham Union Society Debate Friday 7 June 2024: next steps

Updated statement published: 12noon, Tuesday 11 June 2024

Durham University is immediately undertaking a full review of the behaviours exhibited at events last Friday night.

This is taking place under the normal University non-academic misconduct policy.

It is most important that facts and context are properly and fairly reviewed, including seeking input from those directly affected.

Durham Union Society Debate Friday 7 June 2024

Updated statement published: 4pm, Sunday 9 June 2024

Durham University is committed to upholding freedom of speech and the right to lawful demonstration.

Of paramount concern is the safety of our University community.

The right to lawful protest must be balanced between the rights of protesters to assert their views, and the rights of others to go about their business safely, unimpeded and free from intimidation, duress and harassment.  

While individuals and groups within the University community may express lawful views on any issue, we insist that this is done in a safe and respectful way.

Now, as ever, it is critical that behaviours and language do not amount to harassment or intimidation. 

Where there is evidence of behaviour which is intimidatory towards our students, staff, and wider community, we will take appropriate action through our established disciplinary procedures.

Over the past month, student representatives of the encampment on Palace Green have repeatedly met with University leaders for constructive discussions.

On the evening of Friday 7 June, a disruptive protest was held at a debating event organised by Durham Union Society, an independent debating society run by students.

The event, held at a University property on Palace Green included external speakers debating the motion “This House Believes Palestinian Leadership is the Biggest Barrier to Peace”.

The event began with the support of the University, in line with our code of practice on Freedom of Expression. This includes assessing risk and taking advice as appropriate from the police.

In response to emerging intelligence about a significant new risk to public safety, and on advice from the police, the University regretfully took the decision to curtail the event. While disappointed, the Durham Union Society accepted the reasons for this decision.

University Security worked closely with Police to manage the safe dispersal of people from the area.  All attendees safely left the building.

The University is now reviewing the events of Friday evening in accordance with its procedures.

Durham University made it clear immediately and then in writing to the Durham Union Society that the event was postponed, not cancelled, and also offered to liaise with them on rescheduling the event and on providing a secure venue.