This article has been amended (27/04/2020, 5:50 pm GMT) to correct verified inaccuracies erroneously included in the original post. All amended parts are highlighted in bold.
‘Can our President-Elect be any more repulsive?’ was asked by DUCA President, igniting a Facebook dispute between himself and the SU President-elect. Race, class, and gender have been long-standing issues at elite institutions like Durham – no different is the controversy started when a post on the President-elect’s private Instagram story was posted publicly to the Facebook page Overheard, and his private Facebook.
DUCA President (asking to be unnamed) entitled the screenshot on his Facebook account ‘Can our President-Elect be any more repulsive?’. This is in response to her story stating ‘I don’t condone violence in the slightest, but sometimes when you are in the presence of such grotesque entitlement, do you ever just want to say ‘We need to take these Tories to south London and let roadmen deal with them’. Then followed ‘but then you realise you have to be the palatable and charismatic black girl… and you have to smile and wave’.
While the statement about letting ‘roadmen deal with’ Tories has been interpreted as condoning violence, the President-elect herself said (and others view it as) wanting people in positions of privilege, who may have never experienced hardship, to see what adversity looks like. She herself has said in an article for The Tab that ‘because of racism and sexism I have to silence myself and not be a stereotype’ rather than expressing views or implementing policies to change Durham’s stereotype of elitist bias.
Shortly after, one user referred to President-elect on the individual’s Facebook post as ’Ghastly woman. True colours are shown so easily these days..!’, another (former president of the Durham Union) as ‘a trumped up troglodyte’ and ‘yet another jaundiced ignoramus’. Reportedly, the President then posted a link to a meme on Youtube: ‘I’d like to apologise… to absolutely nobody’. The post was later removed.
The following comments have been made on multiple platforms by the President (posted on Overheard as screenshots), some similar to the Warwick University scandal in terms of their justifications of discrimination.
On discussing abortion, he stated that he opposes it ‘in basically all circumstances’ and that ‘some are more tragic than others – rape versus some woman just being a whore and not practicing safe sex’. Other remarks criticized countries opposing Israel during the Six-Day War as ‘all those savage Islamic nations coming together to conquer and destroy Israel’, whose ‘attitudes are not unlike the Nazis’. He also stated ‘My Islam comment can’t possibly go wrong’.
The President claims that some of these comments were manufactured, such as his view that ‘homosexuality is a sin’, saying this is out of context, and he was expressing the view of the Catholic Church. He has also claimed that ‘science has basically found [same-sex parents] to generally produce worse off kids than opposite-sex parents’, and included remarks like ‘the feeling of the opposite gender is nonsense’.
Unfortunately, opinions such as these are no news, with some students believing it’s an ingrained aspect of the culture at Durham. The university has been named the fourth worst for social inclusion, not only among students but staff also. Recent UCU strikes haven’t only been concerned with pensions, but pay differences – 36% of academics at Durham are female, 6% lower than average, and only 7% were BME in 2017/18.
It is impossible for these statistics not to become ingrained in student culture. A lack of disability, minority and gender representation not only reflects institutional bias, but influences students opinions, consciously or not. One first-year remarked that through his whole time at Durham, he hadn’t had one black lecturer.
Low levels of representation are not new in academia, and neither is the backlash against minority students. Between institutional and individual discrimination, it can be a hostile environment for minorities in representing views which are met with insult and attack – that of a private story, publicised and scrutinised on Facebook. The President-elect’s desire to use her power for change or speak out against discrimination can only be positive.
Featured image available at @durhamuniversity