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According to the official report, the Durham Students' Union is "toxic and undemocratic"


A leftist student union that cut funding for an award-winning university newspaper is "undemocratic" and, according to one damn report, is gripped by a "toxic culture".

The Durham Students' Union is viewed with "hatred" and "suspicion" by students after fierce fighting and an election scandal earlier this year, the report revealed by The Mail on Sunday shows.

Last week we revealed how the union, led by a politically correct cabal of radical students, got a grip on the print edition of Palatinate, the university's prestigious student newspaper.

The Durham Students' Union is viewed with "hatred" and "suspicion" by students after bitter fighting and an election scandal earlier this year, according to the report uncovered by The Mail on Sunday

The Pfalz, which is distributed free of charge, was once published by Fleet Street legend Sir Harold Evans, who died last week, and was a training ground for BBC broadcasters Jeremy Vine and George Alagiah.

Union leaders blamed funding pressures and the Covid-19 crisis, but many students believe the decision was politically motivated and claim that freedom of expression is suppressed.

A Durham University union leader describes herself as a misanthropist

A student union leader at Durham University has described herself as a misanthropist.

Nailah Haque's Twitter profile until recently contained the statement: "Misandrist until I die". A misandrist is a person who despises men.

While the social media account no longer exists, the pictured 21-year-old Miss Haque was elected academic officer in February.

The international relations student from east London has encouraged union workers to specify which personal pronouns they use in their emails and has advocated the introduction of “pronoun badges” for students and staff.

In July, she presented Durham chiefs with a manifesto to "decolonize" the university.

She has also asked the university, which has an extensive collection of works of art, to "sell a Picasso and fund the work that people of color have asked you to do for years."

Miss Haque and the union did not respond to requests for comment.

The move, which will save just £ 4,000 in this tenure, is the latest in a series of controversies in which the union is increasingly taking on students.

The union is led by five student officials who are elected each year. However, one election in February was rocked by a revolt. More than 2,000 students – 58 percent of voters – refused to endorse candidates and instead voted for 'reopening nominations'.

Their ballots were disqualified by the union, a decision that aroused anger. The university's Labor Club said it was "nothing less than election fraud".

Weeks after the fiasco, the union quietly released a damn report of how it was making decisions. MiraGold, a higher education consultancy, was given £ 2,000 to interview a dozen people who work for or are affiliated with the union about its democratic processes.

"It's the culture that surrounds it, it's actually pretty toxic," said one of the anonymous respondents.

"The level of hatred against the student body has been a slow blaze, but (problems) have created this distrust and irreparable reputational damage," said another.

"So much toxicity has already been put into our processes that it's baked into the cake," said a third.

The report prompted the union to commission a “comprehensive review of democracy” which will cost up to £ 7,000 – £ 3,000 more than the cost of funding the Palatinate for one term.

The decision to stop publishing the newspaper was made at a board meeting of the union's trustees in July, without the newspaper's two joint editors being present.

In the same month, the Palatinate announced that only 29 percent of Durham students who responded to a national survey said the union was effective in advancing their academic interests – the lowest score of any 137 UK universities.

The union said there was "no political influence" on the decision to "temporarily" cease the Palatinate's print production, which was founded in 1948.

Complaints from those who protested in the February elections include that the union assembly, which bans clapping because some students may be noise sensitive, is making “politically divisive” motions rather than addressing the “real issues” that students face.

Motions passed last year include calling for a boycott of Barclays Bank for its stakes in fossil fuel companies and declaring the university "institutionally accessible" – suggesting that it discriminates against disabled people.

And recently, the union's women's association has been renamed Durham & # 39; s Womxn & # 39; s Association. Woke organizations claim that "womxn" includes trans and non-binary women more.

Seun Twins, the union's president, has hailed Jeremy Corbyn as "the white king" and committed the union to "unravel the unfair power dynamic that invades a culture of privilege".

Defiant student journalists have raised over £ 3,500 to get their newspaper's presses rolling again

Student journalists have managed to raise over £ 3,500 to get their newspaper's presses rolling again.

The fundraiser started after The Mail announced on Sunday last week how the Durham Students' Union cut the £ 4,000 budget for printing the 14-day Pfalzzeitung during this term.

A GoFundMe online campaign run by a former student raised £ 1,245 and donated more than £ 2,250 in private donations – enough to pay for four issues of the paper with a run of 2,000 each.

Despite the windfall, uncertainty remains as the union has not signed a health and safety assessment that is required before the free newspaper is distributed.

"We are confident that we are financially secure to print the Palatinate," said the joint editors Imogen Usherwood and Tash Mosheim.

"We still have to confirm, however, that we can go to print next week – freshman week."

One student who asked not to be named claimed that the union's chairman, Gareth Hughes, a former Labor student activist who calls himself a socialist on social media, is the union's "driving force" and the student officials be "in" Thrall & # 39; to him.

"He's the person who sets the agenda and is in charge," the source said.

James Parton-Hughes, a former member of the Durham University Conservative Association, said, “The union is like a private club with a culture of rejection and political correctness. I don't think there is a single student who would say to stop printing the paper. The union should be open to being held accountable. "

The union said it was unable to comment on MiraGold's results as it was too busy preparing for freshmen week and looking at the effects of Covid-19.

JEREMY VINE: Why the sound of my old Durham University paper was printed was the sound of freedom

For me – as a dubious teenager – it was like finally finding evidence that I actually existed. The thrill never went, writes Jeremy Vine

There is a certain TV presenter who annoys me a little bit when I see her on the box.

The reason goes back several years, as the best grudge does. In the depths of our careers, the two of us had bumped into each other in a corridor and jealously compared notes. During the conversation I mentioned that I had gone to Durham University.

"Ah, me too," said the other person seriously. & # 39; The student newspaper. Yes, being the editor of this is definitely on my resume. "

“Fantastic!” I exclaimed, remembering long nights in the newspaper's office known as the Pfalz. “I was also an editor. 1985. When did you do that? "

"Oh, I never really did it," came the reply. "I just put it on my résumé."

This seemed like an earth-changing scam, but I think the reason I felt especially sensitive is because you keep being grateful for the first publication to have your name printed.

The Palatinate did that for me. The 72-year-old student newspaper is now in the news itself as the Durham Students' Union that funds it wants to stop the money on its print edition.

To me, it's like telling a farmer that he can't keep sheep, but he can keep pictures of them. I'm all for online messaging, but a paper must be printed or it is not paper.

The editors of the low-ink publication contacted me with a private message on Twitter. To support them, I posted a gentle tweet. “The student newspaper has been printed for 72 years. Now the team has been told that there is no budget for paper and ink. That's wrong, wrong, wrong. "

That tweet got a little crazy and caused what young people call a bunch – if you haven't heard the term before, it's a bit of a bar brawl but without the beer glasses.

I think part of this is because so many people now working in top media professions came through student newspapers. But the outrage was also fueled by a very old-fashioned thought – the sound of a newspaper being printed is the sound of freedom.

I called Imogen Usherwood, one of the Palatinate's co-editors, to ask why an aspiring journalist would still want to see his work in print rather than just online in 2020.

The answer gave me heart. “When the Palatinate is printed, we are physically present on campus – in libraries, cafes, buildings, etc. that cannot really be compared online or with social media. When something prints, you know it has to be right. Things cannot be changed later, which brings us to account. "

To me – as a dubious teenager – it was like finally finding evidence that I actually existed. The thrill never went. After graduation, I made my way to the newspapers.

In 1986 the Coventry Evening Telegraph gave me my first job as an aspiring reporter at £ 6,200 a year.

There were no computers in the newsroom, only banks with manual typewriters that made 85 journalists sweat buckets. And when I left the building at the end of the day to pick up my bike, I walked past roaring presses that sometimes flashed my latest item.

When I was an editor, we did regular exposés on the people who ran the passionate left of the student union, all of whom seemed to become business consultants after graduating. Jeremy Vine is pictured on the far left with student journalists in Durhams Pfalzzeitung from 1984

When I was an editor, we did regular exposés about the people who ran the student union – passionate leftists who all seemed to become business consultants after graduation. Jeremy Vine is pictured on the far left with student journalists in Durhams Pfalzzeitung in 1984

I have no idea what motivated the current student union crew (a mix of paid staff and alumni) to turn off the printers. But in the 1980s when I was studying English literature there – actually "studying" is a slight exaggeration – the tension between the newspaper and the union was so real you could smell it.

I realized that the student union was full of people who were basically graduating full time to hate Ms. Thatcher.

She had just entered her second term, which had completely messed her up.

If you loathed Thatcher then, you were described as "sound". If you loved her – about eight students across the university – you were called a "nutter."

Student politics was never very mature and I stayed out of it.

The problem arises when a student newspaper is funded by a student body. When I was an editor, we did regular exposés about the people who ran the student union – passionate leftists who all seemed to become business consultants after graduation.

Once they were angry with the university authorities and resigned en masse. When I explained that this was "not a big story" and directed them to an inside, they were angry. The penny fell. They thought we existed just to tell the rest of the university how good they were.

In Durham, I fell in love, discovered poetry, and published the student paper, and the biggest of them was … Well, let's just say, finding the paper was like finding love.

When I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I can actually smell the inked golf ball spinning like a magician's ball in the hollow of our electric typewriter, the closest thing to the new technology. The room, possibly the messiest in County Durham, was tucked away in the back of the dreary student union building. The carpet was smeared with cigarette butts and the walls painted yellow with vomit.

It didn't matter. A dozen of us found our way there every week like children entering a Christmas grotto and eager to tell our stories.

We would then – the lack of technology was really stunning – taped the paragraphs onto large pieces of card that would be taken in a car to a local printer.

It was the opposite of the internet. But friendships were made there for life.

Joel Donovan (whose first words to me in 1984 were, "There's a lot to learn") became QC.

Richard Calland, the sports editor who once arrived at the trilby at midnight and fell over the photocopier in a drunken haze, is now a respected academic. Wendy Pilmer ran BBC Newcastle and then became a gardener. Tim Burt made a fortune in public relations.

Other alumni include the formidable George Alagiah, Hunter Davies and Cristina Nicolotti who run a section of Sky News.

Before his legendary career in Fleet Street, Sir Harold Evans was editor of the Palatinate.

Many of us seem to feel that something big is happening here. Sure, this precious newspaper may just be another clump of paint on a student smartphone, but then it's lost.

We have a kind of miracle in the history of the Palatinate: students of the 21st century, the digital natives who are told to us, will pack all imaginable technologies for their entire life and still experience the greatest thrill when they fold their name on a large piece in print see paper.

And as long as the newspaper itself doesn't work, there is hope.

BBC presenter Jeremy Vine’s new novel, The Diver And The Lover, published by Hachette UK, is out now. The fee for this article was donated to the Palatinate.

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