A statement from Jeremy Cook (Pro-Vice-Chancellor Colleges & Student Experience), Kate McIntosh (President, Durham Students’ Union) and Caragh Evans (Chair, Junior Common Room Presidents’ Committee)
The University is committed to building a culture of inclusivity and respect for its community. Free speech and debate are important to fostering this culture and we welcome lively discussion. Some of the key outlets for this discussion are, of course, email and social media.
Whilst the vast majority of our students engage in positive ways on a whole range of topics, often contributing to global and academic debate, there has been a recent and extremely disappointing increase in the use of inappropriate and often abusive language in emails and social media posts, between students and also between students and staff.
This has included language and content which is racist, misogynistic and constitutes bullying and harassment. This is not acceptable.
It is important to understand that our culture is created collectively through the actions of the members of our community and that this includes online interactions as well as face-to-face behaviour. As a University committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, members of our community should not write anything in an email or on social media which would not be said out loud, and we will not tolerate racism, homophobia, ableism, classism, sexism or transphobia under any circumstances.
Unwanted behaviour in the form of bullying, harassment, hate incidents, or sexual misconduct and violence (in verbal and non-verbal form) are judged by the impact on the individual. Behaviour that has the intention, or the effect, of humiliating, offending, or intimidating an individual or creates a hostile or degrading environment can lead to serious disciplinary consequences.
Students can seek support and advice from their Colleges, from the Student Conduct Office, and from the Students’ Union. The Report and Support tool reportandsupport.durham.ac.uk can be used to report incidents of unwanted behaviour by staff and students and provides further guidance on wider support available.
You will be aware that, last year, we set up a Commission on Respect, Values and Behaviour and asked for feedback from students and staff alike on what respect looks like to you. Following on from this, our Respect at Work and Respect at Study policies are being updated and a clear statement of the expectations of behaviour online and in person for all staff and students is being developed. We want to continue to offer world-class education, research and wider student experience, and we are committed to providing equal opportunity for all members of the University to flourish and achieve their full potential. Key to this is a strong culture of respect where people feel welcome, safe and valued members of our community. We all need to work together in order to create this culture, and your contribution is crucial.
Please treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.