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Durham University

Respect: creating a place where we can all flourish

Respect Oversight Group (RoG)

The first meeting of the Respect Oversight Group took place in December 2020. The initial meeting introduced and welcomed members, discussed how the group will engage and received an update on progress against the 20 recommendations. There are 15 members of the Oversight Group. Staff members will serve for a term of 3 years, with Student members serving a 1 year term on the Group.

Respect Oversight Group Membership

Shaid Mahmood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Chair

Shaid is the pan-University strategic lead for EDI, respect and behaviours. One of his top priorities is embedding a culture of respect and inclusivity across the University.

Shaid was previously the Chief Officer for Transformation and Change at Leeds City Council leading major organisational and city change programmes. These include its equality communities, and staff networks. He has delivered sector leading and nationally recognised work on equality, prevent and counter extremism, cohesion and integration, migration, tackling poverty and inequality in the least advantaged neighbourhoods as well as extensive work with the third sector and with faith communities.

Fiona Ellis, Member of Council, Deputy Chair

Fiona Ellis is the Deputy Chair of the Respect Oversight Group. She chaired the original Respect, Values and Behaviour Commission. Fiona’s relationship with Durham University began when she joined the Audit Committee and subsequently the University Council. She has also been Chair of St Cuthbert’s Society and continues to be a Fellow and mentor there. Fiona’s working life has mainly been spent in charitable organisations dedicated to pursuing social justice. She worked for many UK charitable foundations including as Director of the Northern Rock Foundation. She is currently a non-executive director of Big Society Capital, a leading social impact investor in the UK.

Seun Twins, President of Durham Students' Union, Student Union Member

The Respect Commission has come at a very interesting time where the University and the sector are confronting uncomfortable conversations around values, behaviors, and attitudes. As an undergraduate, my student experience was defined by either being a victim of a toxic culture or actively working to dismantle it, and unsurprisingly my presidency has followed a very similar journey. And therefore, my vested interest in the Respect Commission and Working group stems from both personal and public experience of Durham's culture that has both unsettled and inspired me. So much so that I have begun to conduct a Culture Commission on the student experience to widen this discussion further.

Jane Macnaughton, Director of the University’s Institute for Medical Humanities, Commission Member

Jane Macnaughton is Professor of Medical Humanities and Director of the University’s Institute for Medical Humanities (IMH). She was Dean of Undergraduate Medicine at Durham until the medical programme transferred to Newcastle University in 2017. She is now a professor in the Department of Anthropology. While Dean of Medicine Jane led the department to success in gaining a Bronze Athena Swan Award. Along with Lorna Wilson she set up the Women@DU network in 2019 and she sits on the University’s Equal Pay Working Group. In IMH she is instigating a 5-10 year plan to decolonise the field of medical humanities. She is passionate about supporting a culture at DU that ensures everyone is valued, supported and their contribution to the success of the University is celebrated

Marek Szablewski, Associate Professor of Physics, Commission Member

Associate Professor of Physics, co-director of EDI in Physics, co-director of Student Experience in Physics, currently vice-president of Durham UCU and a personal case worker for DUCU. Vice chair of AEA (elected members on Senate) and vice chair of SASC (Senate Agenda Setting Committee). Mediator for the University mediation service. Annually I run workshops and give presentations to local school pupils at the County’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration at Durham Cathedral. I was a member of the original Respect Commission and am committed to ensuring the recommendations of the RC are followed through and taken further to make sure that our University is synonymous with Respect.

Lorna Wilson, Head of Research Development, Commission Member

I joined the university in October 2017 as the Head of Research Development in Research and Innovation Services, where I lead a team of Senior Research Development Managers in supporting our academic community to secure external research funding. I am also co-chair of Women@DU, a network that brings together staff from across Durham who identify as female in order to share experiences, opportunities, knowledge, and support. I was previously a member of the Respect Commission, and am very excited to have the opportunity to join the Respect Oversight Group.

Dr Cora Lingling Xu, Assistant Professor in the School of Education, Faculties Member

Dr Cora Lingling Xu is Assistant Professor at the School of Education. A sociologist of education, Cora’s research examines how the intersection of class, gender, ethnicity, rural-urban divides, time, and geopolitics can shape social agents’ educational and life trajectories. She can be reached via email:

Vacancy, Professional Services Staff Member

We will shortly be recruiting an professional services staff member. If you are interested in this position, please email for more information

Vacancy, Undergraduate Member

We will shortly be recruiting an undergraduate member. If you are interested in this position, please email for more information.

Jack Simmonds, Student, Postgraduate Member

I’m Jack and I am currently studying a MA in Social Research Methods with Social Policy. Away from this, I am the current MCR Presidents’ Committee Chair and the Postgraduate and Matures Students’ Chair at St Cuthberts’ Society.

Anoush Ehteshami, Director of the Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, Staff Network Member

I am Professor of International Relations, Director of the Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies and also a co-founder of the BAME network. When I joined the University in 1993, such matters as diversity, inclusiveness and equality were implicit and our staff and student profile was less representative of the wider society. As the University’s first Dean of Internationalisation, I was keen to widen this agenda to argue that the University’s culture needs to change and fully embrace the world around it. I regard the respect report and its implementation plan as one of the most important developments in the University, and I am keen to help put in place a system which is conscious of its social responsibilities, is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of its communities, is actively encouraging widening participation and diversifying our student and staff recruitment. As a staff networks nominee I will be working closely with these networks to ensure that their views are reflected in our deliberations and that our decisions are fed back to colleagues across these staff networks.

Paul St. Clair Leppan, College Porter, Trade Union Member

I am a Porter, at the College of St Hild and St Bede, and support matters relating to general well-being, safety, security and conduct of University students, staff and visitors. My role involves regularly working shifts over weekdays and public holidays. As a mature student and active trade unionist, I bring to education a wide range of skills. Life experience, as well as experience as a trade union activist has developed an awareness of workplace issues, the world around me and this has introduced me to learning. Equality is at the heart of everything GMB does, inside and outside the workplace.

Nic Johnston, Assistant Director of HR, HR Member

I’m Nic Johnston, Assistant Director of HR and the University’s Employment Lawyer. I have worked at the University since 2014 and prior to that was the University’s external employment lawyer and I was a PGR (quite some time before). I am the HR lead on the Respect Oversight Group, the work of which overlaps with some of my day-to-day responsibilities not least being the HR EDI lead within the University. I am also responsible for employee relations (and related policies), recruitment across the institution and I am a member of the University’s Covid-19 Central Planning Group.

Rachel Archbold, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, EDI Member

I’ve been with Durham for the last 4 years where I lead work to deliver equality, diversity and support Inclusion. I started my career within the legal and voluntary sector, where I led a number of community based projects to support engagement and cohesion. Following this I joined the public sector to support the implementation of equality legislation and the Equality Framework for Local Government.

Claire Godden-Rasul, Project Manager (Respect and Inclusion)

Claire is the project manager for the Respect Project. She is based in the Strategic Delivery Unit but works with staff and students across the community. Claire has worked at the University since 2010, first managing undergraduate admissions to the University and then as People Strategy Development Manager in Recruitment and Admissions. She is also a qualified workplace mediator and works as part of the University's Mediation Service.

Yulia Abramova, Executive Assistant to Shaid Mahmood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion,

Yulia joined the University in August 2021. Prior to Durham University, she has worked in various sectors, from construction and banking to FMCG, providing top level executive support and also working in Finance and Supply Chain logistics. Yulia benefits from vast knowledge of various business sectors, as well as a truly multicultural background, having studied in the US, France and Russia. Yulia holds a Master’s degree in World Politics and International Relations and a BA in Diplomacy and Regional Studies.