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Durham University News

Response to Trevelyan College Rugby Club event

Update, Tuesday 28 November (pm)

Durham Miners and the city's University will work together to educate students in understanding the heritage and culture of the county in which they study.

Miners leaders met with University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge today (Tuesday 28 November) to plan an education programme which helps incoming students understand the history and tradition of the Durham coalfield.

The meeting followed the debacle of Trevelyan College Rugby Club's attempt to organise a pickets versus police 'Battle of Orgreave' themed social event.

The rugby club's error of judgement led to a flood of complaints and outrage on mainstream and social media yesterday (Monday 27 November) for the offence it caused to the former mining communities of County Durham and beyond.

The Durham Miners' Association (DMA) will help the University to structure a student induction programme which includes an understanding and appreciation of the county and its people.

The DMA has also invited the Trevelyan College Rugby Club to the historic Miners' Hall so they can see the enormous contribution miners have made to British history including the establishment of the University.

DMA Secretary Alan Cummings said: "The University has apologised profusely for the offence caused by this incident. We have had emails from the students' union, the college and, most importantly, a heartfelt apology from the rugby club.

"We accept that the rugby club was acting in ignorance and they genuinely regret for what they have done.

"We will continue to maintain good, constructive relations with students, academics and researchers at the University.

"Clearly, we can't condone a lack of respect for the people of County Durham on this scale. It has raised a critical question about how university students relate to working class people, not just in Durham, but elsewhere.

"We should all learn lessons from this episode."

Durham University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart Corbridge said: “The University is extremely grateful to the DMA for the constructive discussions we have had in regard to the Rugby Club incident.

"We now look forward to working with the DMA on an important education programme based around the history of the Durham coalfield and County Durham.

"The programme will benefit all students coming to Durham University, including a growing number of students from the North East who will join us from increasingly diverse backgrounds."

Update, Tuesday 28 November

“Our academic staff are producing and disseminating research that has a positive impact on local, as well as national and global challenges. One recent example is research by Dr Charlotte Adams from our Geography Department and Durham Energy Institute Executive Director Professor Jon Gluyas suggesting abandoned deep mines could be used to meet future energy needs through geothermal heating – work that has involved the Durham Miners’ Association and the National Union of Mineworkers.”

Update, Monday 27th November (pm)

Durham University and the Durham Miners' Association (DMA) will meet tomorrow morning (November 28) to discuss positive ways forward from the offence caused by inappropriate and offensive student behaviour.

The University Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge called the DMA to apologise for the actions of Trevelyan College students who had threatened to organise a planned social event based on a miners' strike theme.

The college rugby club were to dress up as police and miners to emulate the Battle of Orgreave.

DMA Chairman Joe Whitworth said, "We want to work with the university to see if we can learn some lessons from this incident. People have been deeply upset by the callous mockery of miners and mining communities. It is clear that the rugby club do not understand the sensitivities surrounding the miners' strike and the devastation of our communities after it.

"We will invite the rugby club to our headquarters in Durham in an effort to progress their knowledge of the community in which they study. It is important that students from all social backgrounds understand how to live well with their neighbours. Understanding the history, heritage and culture of County Durham should be part of their education while they are in the city.

"We have agreed that we all need a positive outcome from this incident and we will be discussing the broader issues arising from it with the university tomorrow. We have good working relationships with the university, its researchers, students and academics. These should not be spoiled by daft student antics."

Prof Corbridge said, “Durham University is proud to be part of the vibrant communities of County Durham and the wider North East. We will not tolerate this kind of distasteful and divisive behaviour. The planned event has been cancelled, the sports team involved has been de-ratified and we will use our disciplinary procedures to take appropriate actions. Moving forward, it is clear that we can do more to ensure that our students are properly informed about the history and the heritage of the communities who kindly host them during their university careers. I am grateful to the DMA for helping us start that conversation.”

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said, "I am delighted the University and the DMA have worked together quickly on this. It has caused real offence to the people of the city and the county as a whole. I am pleased the DMA have offered to educate students about the importance of our mining communities and their history."

Update, Monday 27 November 2017

Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said:

"Trevelyan College immediately began investigative action and the College Rugby Club and all its events and activities both on and off the field have been indefinitely suspended, effective from Sunday 26 November, pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

"A programme of education, concerning the North East region’s proud traditions, and the national importance of the endeavours and sacrifices of those working in the Durham coalfields, is to be put in place for the benefit not only of those students directly involved but also of the wider sporting fraternities and student communities.

"Specific apologies from the Rugby Club to the Durham Miners’ Association and other representative bodies will follow."

University Statement, Sunday 26 November 2017

Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said:

“Durham University and Trevelyan College utterly deplore this event which is wholly unacceptable.

“The event has been cancelled by the students concerned. We are speaking to those students and we are considering what further action to take in due course.

“Durham University is extremely proud of the positive contribution it makes to Durham City and North East England and our place in the rich heritage of this region.

“We know that most students are active and positive residents of their communities. For example, students undertook more than 29,000 hours of volunteering last year.

“We work closely with partners including Durham County Council, Durham Constabulary and local residents’ groups with the aim of ensuring there is a positive environment for all who live and work in Durham City.

“Regrettably, there are occasions where student behaviour falls short of the standards we expect. We have a very active education programme that explains our Code of Conduct for those living in the local community and aims to enhance students’ sense of belonging.

“This Code of Conduct highlights that the University reserves the right to take appropriate action against those who fall short of these standards.”