As SU President, this year I am commissioning a report on Durham’s culture from a student perspective. The report will have two purposes. Firstly, to identify and locate positive and negative behaviours or attitudes in the Durham student experience. Secondly, to offer sustainable and long-term recommendations to deconstruct and amend this culture. It’s our chance as students to take charge of our ‘Durhamness’, to recognise its deep-rooted problems but also to commit to the change that will ultimately make Durham a more welcoming place. The first step will be to understand the culture and students’ experiences of it, and this will inform the recommendations eventually made in the Commission.
Durham is in transition, with new colleges, student number expansion, digitalisation, diversification, decolonisation etc. Now, more than ever, we need to talk about the culture here and reflect on the state of our university. I’ve come to realise that there is not one Durham experience that a student can or must have, but in practice a ‘dominant Durham culture’ continues to grab our attention. This dominant culture has withstood the test of time and continues to take centre stage through some of the loudest voices we hear most from.
We are all responsible for calling out these behaviours and I see the Culture Commission as a constructive medium for us to begin to investigate this dominant culture and dismantle the toxic elements of it, whilst celebrating the positives.
I recognise that the discussion around Durham’s culture and the impact it can have on student experience will likely be distressing to some. I encourage anyone who is affected by the ongoing conversations around Durham’s culture to seek support. Below is a summary of some support options:
|Informal support for yourself (self-care / self-help)||