DSU president-elect ‘escorted from open day’ by uni security while handing out flyers about accommodation fees
The uni has said it is investigating an incident involving security and students
George Walker, the president-elect of Durham Students' Union, has claimed he was "escorted from university property" after discussing rising accommodation fees with visitors at an open day this morning.
The future SU president claimed in a Twitter thread that two university security staff approached himself and postgraduate academic officer-elect David Evans at around 11:15 on Saturday morning.
Durham University says it is "aware of an incident that took place earlier today involving security and members of the student body handing out flyers, and we will be looking into the matter.”
Self-described activist George Walker said he and David had been speaking to visitors on behalf of #RippedOff, a campaign co-ordinated by the DSU that aims to improve accessibility of accommodation for students in Durham.
Writing about his experiences on Twitter, Walker said: "I hope that Durham Uni will clarify their commitment to freedom of expression on campus and instead of moving to silence legitimate criticism, will address the concerns of students".
The pair allege that staff were prepared to call the police if they did not co-operate.
Speaking exclusively to The Tab Durham, George Walker said: "The university threatening to call the police simply because two student representatives were handing out leaflets makes me incredibly concerned."
He added that the encounter "appears to show a complete disregard for the student voice and an unwillingness to tolerate any criticism, a contradiction of the university's own free speech policies.
"The university should be encouraging students to be active and engaged citizens, not intimidating those who speak out against their policies."
Postgraduate academic officer-elect David Evans, who was accompanying George at the open day, supports the president-elect's claims.
"I was rather taken aback at first, a guy in hi-vis just came over and told us we weren't allowed to hand out anything and he'd have to escort us from university property", David told The Tab Durham.
He continued: "When we asked what the issue was he said that this was an 'unauthorized peaceful protest' and the university had to be made aware in advance or it would be shut down.
"I was just confused overall as I didn't see this as a protest – we were talking to people passing by, and more often than not people heard us mention 'accommodation fees' and came over of their own accord to ask questions – we weren't stopping people getting past or anything like that.
"And even if it was, why do students need authorisation to stand on a bit of university property in the daytime?"
Evans also alleges that university staff were prepared to call police if they did not leave.
He said: "The thing that really got me was that because been were talking to a security guard for a while trying to understand what the perceived issue was, another guard then came over and said the Open Day Manager was going to call the police unless we left."
Sitting SU president, Megan Croll, told The Tab Durham: "What makes me sad about the actions of this university today is that I’m completely unsurprised by their behaviour.
"For an institution that encourages curiosity and debate, they are so quick to shut down any expression of our frustrations; it’s disappointing and quite frankly very tiring.
"This year, I have cooperated with the university in many ways, but every day I’ve tried to show them the importance of the student voice.
"Durham will never be the world-leading institution it hopes to be if it doesn’t start listening to its cohort of students who will be world-leading years from now.
"If I were the Vice Chancellor I would want to send those people into the world with fond memories of Durham, not with resentment."