An Open Letter to the DSU

Is Durham University really an experience like no other?

Dear officers,

I am writing to share my concern regarding the University’s latest advertising vignette on YouTube entitled ‘Durham University: an experience like no other’. Whilst I believe that social media are a good way to generate interest among prospective students I feel this latest video is highly damaging to the University’s reputation. The video appears to promote an idealistic lifestyle of social elites who flamboyantly walk through their university education. The video only features white Anglo-Saxon characters engaging in a limited range of activities which echo a lifestyle exemplifying a specific class; this seems self-degrading considering recent reports that the university intake is one of the least ethnically diverse in the country. It may be a fact that the majority of Durham students are white and from middle- to upper-class backgrounds (https://www.dur.ac.uk/spa/statistics/), but this should not mean that students of other backgrounds and origins should be ignored when promoting the University to prospective students.

This video in particular does little to represent the actual diversity of our University with respect to race, culture and age. Moreover, it does nothing to alleviate the stereotyped ‘rugby lad’ culture which has recently been an embarrassment to our community in the national media. The models’ attire rarely reflects the clothing of a typical student; not all students can afford, nor so have the desire, to shop in Jack Wills. Aside from unwittingly advertising the company by including its shopping bags and style of attire, this contributes again to the stereotype of the ‘rah’ student.

There was also a heavy emphasis on sports in the video. This is representative of one aspect of university life, but the overemphasis overshadows many of the other artistic and intellectual qualities of our community. This will hardly attract a more diverse range of students. If this video were to show students of different races, classes and creeds engaging in the activities displayed in the video, maybe it would have been more representative of an identity that the university was trying to promote to a wider audience. However I don’t believe that this in itself would be truly constructive. It was fantastic that DUCK and Teach First were featured in the video but only briefly. Why did the University choose to ignore so many of the other societies and clubs which display our diversity?

Nowhere in the video did we see students of different ages, races and cultures working together to benefit our university life and wider society. I feel despite the quality of our academia, the reach of our intellectual and philanthropic output, and the recognition of our employability in the professional world, whoever has recently been in charge of promoting our collective to future generations has failed us. As officers voted into employment as representatives of your student colleagues I wonder what you feel would be necessary in order to stop this trend.

You can watch the video itself on YouTube by clicking here.

Leave a Reply