Charlie Cowen
They/them
Culture Commissioner

As a student in my fourth year, I’ve had time to engage with many aspects of the so-called Durham culture, and even in that short period have witnessed many changes – both positive and negative. When I first arrived at Durham, conversation about problematic behaviours seemed thin on the ground, and I bore witness to some of the positive and negative aspects of the culture of this university. As I educated myself and grew ever more dissatisfied with normalised problematic behaviour, I began thinking about using my data science skillset to create an empirical report about this; I pitched my idea to the SU President, and was absolutely overjoyed to learn that Seun had already created and invested countless hours in the Culture Commission, a more expansive and better thought-out examination of the culture at Durham than I could have imagined! Subsequently, I was thrilled when - building on my ideas, skillset and experiences in Durham - Seun asked me to be a Commissioner. I joined because the commission has the potential to create genuine, lasting change; I regret not challenging negative cultural elements in the past, and my work with the commission will leave Durham in a more inclusive and welcoming state than I found it. Rather than reactively denouncing negative events that make national news, the Culture Commission’s report will professionally study and lay out like never before problematic cultural elements that produce those events (as well as the many positive cultural aspects of Durham.) Our findings have the potential to influence the University’s culture and policy-making for the better – building on the preliminary work of the Respect Commission- to create a safer, more inclusive and more enjoyable environment for every student.