Multiple incidents of classist abuse at The University of Durham have emerged across the course of this semester, News Reporter Tamzin Meyer reports
Durham University prides itself on being one of the UK’s most reputable universities, with its ranking of fourth on The Guardian’s League Table for the best UK universities for 2021. However, the Russell Group university has found itself facing several serious allegations since the start of the new term. University is an exciting time for many students but a report from third year student, Lauren White, has highlighted how for some students, they hold a rather different view towards their time at Durham.
The 20 year old, who is from Newcastle, has accused the university of prejudice towards northern students: she personally felt that there was a ‘toxic culture’ within the university, with northern students being victimised by those who viewed themselves to be from ‘posher’ backgrounds. Within the report, White found that many other students had faced similar experiences of negativity.
In an article on the b**p, White recalled how her experiences of this had started during ‘fresher’s week 2018’ where a group of ‘white, posh, middle-class, mostly privately-educated southerners’ ridiculed her accent, repeating words she had said such as ‘book,’ ‘cook’ and ‘hook.’ This type of scenario worsened as her time at Durham went on, with the student speaking out about being made to feel ‘alien in [her] own corner of the country’ with a comment being directed to her calling all Northerners ‘feral.’
White’s experience resonates with many other students, as her report saw one person provide an account of the time a former Eton College student, who was now studying at Durham, stubbed a cigarette on their hand, after stating how they were ‘lucky to be state educated.’ Those from the North, who had received the grades they needed to achieve their place at the prestigious university through hard work and determination, were made to feel like they were not worthy of their place.
Another student states that ‘In the college dining hall [they] have been called a ‘dirty northerner,’ and a ‘chav.’
A fellow student asked [them]: ‘Are you going to take the spare food home to feed your family?’
Accounts like this prompted White to draw up her report hoping that she could help stop victimised students from leaving the university and prevent them from being exposed to such a bitter environment. She hopes that the university will adopt five points in order to help control this prejudice including providing ‘specific support groups for students from Supported Progression, the North and ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds. She also asks that they ‘take re-educational action to ensure no student at Durham University is unaware that prejudice and discrimination against students because of their background is unacceptable.’
Durham University’s own values are highlighted on their website, with one of them focusing on responsibility, stating that ‘We take our duties as a centre of learning, neighbour and employer seriously, embracing all of our different communities and celebrating the differences that make us stronger together.’
In response to White’s report, Durham’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge issued a statement to Palatinate, providing hope for future Northern students: ‘We believe that everyone has the right to study and work in an environment that is respectful and where people feel comfortable to be themselves and to flourish.
‘For most staff, students, visitors and partners, their experience of Durham University is a very positive one, but we want to do better still. We recently published the final report of the Durham Commission on Respect, Values and Behaviour, which we set up to understand better what it is like to study and work here, and how we can create positive change.
‘We are now setting up an Oversight Group to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission and explore further actions.
‘The ‘Northern Student Experience at Durham University’ report highlights some behaviours which are unacceptable and entirely at odds with our values as a University. In the short time since receiving the report, Lauren and I have agreed both that her report will be considered by the Respect Commission Oversight Group and that we will meet shortly to discuss her findings further.’
These allegations come at the same time as allegations were made regarding students betting to have sex with the poorest Durham University student they could find, with the most recent case seeing an LGBTQ+ online meeting being interrupted by people using homophobic language.
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