Press Release from the Durham Union Society, 24.09.23

The Durham Union Society is pleased to announce that it has taken numerous steps to ensure that it is a leader on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

At the heart of our ethos is the aspiration of providing to every Durham student, regardless of background, the opportunity to debate key ideas of our day. We believe that diversity of thought is a fundamental part of free speech and that we all benefit from having a wide range of viewpoints within the membership. We are also determined to ensure that every Durham student feels that the Union can and should be a place for them to explore their intellectual curiosity and enjoy the friendship and community of the Durham Union.

Although we believe that significant improvements have been made already, every organisation must challenge themselves to go further and maximise progress on issues surrounding EDI. With this in mind, the Trustees of the Society, in consultation with the student leadership present and future, are making several commitments. We are delighted by the enthusiasm shown already by key stakeholders within the Durham community and are proud to announce that we will be returning to the Freshers Fair this year, where we look forward to introducing the incoming cohort to the Union and telling them about all of the events we have planned for the coming year, as well as our pre-existing policies aimed at ensuring a more diverse community such as access membership.

The statement from the Trustees of the Durham Union Society on these commitments reads as follows:

In accordance with DUS’s fundamental values of enabling free speech for all, regardless of background, and in recognition of the need to make DUS a leader in supporting and positively encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), we as Trustees of DUS make the following commitments.

In consultation with the Society’s student leaders present and future, we have requested that the General Committee promotes the Equalities Officer to the Standing Committee as soon as possible in Michaelmas 2023. We have full confidence in our EDI plan published in Easter Term 2022, but we consider it necessary to demonstrate progress on its goals and so we will add to the Equality Officer’s new portfolio the responsibility to make public termly progress updates. Additionally, as outlined in our 2022 EDI plan, we will reform our Officers’ Code of Conduct, updating the Inclusion training recommended to our Officers, introducing a positive duty towards respect and inclusion and improving safeguarding for whistle-blowers.

As Trustees, we will recruit a new member of the Board of Trustees with relevant experience in EDI. We intend to complete this appointment by the start of Epiphany Term 2024.

Finally, we will establish a consultation of key stakeholders in the Durham community, including our members, to assess the progress of our EDI plan, to target any areas still requiring improvement and to ensure that DUS is a welcoming place for all students. This process will be overseen by the Trustees and managed by an independent individual/organisation appointed by the Trustees. We aim to have scoped and procured this consultation by the end of Epiphany Term 2024. Coordination with students will be conducted through the President and the Equalities Officer.

Through these measures, we intend to ensure greater cooperation with the Durham Students’ Union, reflected in our attendance at Freshers Fair 2023, and to build on our EDI progress, ensuring the DUS is a welcoming place for all members of the Durham community.