Durham University withdraws fresher’s place over ‘abhorrent’ online posts

Durham University has withdrawn a student’s place after an investigation into “utterly abhorrent” comments on social media.

It launched the inquiry after it came to light that wealthy prospective freshers supposedly planned to hold a competition to have sex with the poorest student they could find. Other comments discussed drugs and concerns about being accused of rape. One wrote that he would “sleep with a different bird every night just for a bed”.

Screenshots from various online chats, thought to involve teenagers due to start their studies this month, were shared on the “Overheard at Durham Uni” Facebook page.

One commented to the group: “Have I told you about the posh lads competing on fucking the poorest girl.” Another wrote that George Floyd, the black man who died during his arrest by white police officers in the US, “had it coming”.

After the university’s investigation, which involved a lawyer and a former police officer, one student’s place was withdrawn. The university was not able to confirm what the student had posted, saying only that their “behaviour [fell] short of the values we uphold, as reflected in our regulations”.

Jeremy Cook, pro-vice-chancellor with responsibility for colleges and student experience, said: “Recently Durham University was made aware of some utterly abhorrent comments on social media purported to have been posted by Durham students. As we said at the time, we condemn the content and behaviour demonstrated in these social media posts, which is entirely unacceptable and violates the values and behaviours that we uphold as a university community.”

Cook said two other students were found not to have broken the rules and could start their studies, while others were investigated and found to have no association with the university. He said investigations were continuing into other comments.

Cook said Durham police had been informed about people using pseudonyms to pose as undergraduates while trying to sell tickets to non-existent events, including during induction week.

Lydia Gibson, a student who highlighted the posts, said they were unacceptable and not “just lad banter”. “You can’t come to university and think that saying those types of things is OK,” she said.