Durham student called a ‘dirty n****’ by society member on Equalities Committee

She has heavily criticised the university’s handling of the situation, but Durham has queried her social media reporting

A student at Durham University has said that she was called a “dirty n****” by a member of the Durham Union society Equalities Committee.

Samantha Smith, who is a second year Law student at Hatfield College of Afro-Hispanic heritage and was a member of the debating society at the time of the incident, shared the hate speech she had faced in series of tweets and posts on the Facebook group “Overheard at Durham Uni”.

In the social media posts Samantha says she informed the university of the hate speech she had faced, and after the university and the Durham Union had both investigated the situation, she says the student was forced to make a formal apology to her. Samantha says she was the only woman of colour holding a position on the society committee at the time, and that the student “knew what he was doing” using such hate speech.

The student’s apology to Samantha reads: “You will be aware that I am required to have no contact with you. I assure you that I will abide by this and this letter is written sincerely to offer an apology to you.

“I have been given this opportunity to write to you indirectly. I am therefore writing this letter offering my sincere apology to you as I understand my behaviour has caused you distress.

“During the last few months, I have reflected on my interactions with you, and it is my intention to follow the advice provided by the university.

“I wish you all the best in the future and once again I am sorry for the distress you have experienced.”

The apology from the student to Samantha

Samantha has criticised the apology on social media, tweeting: “In his ‘apology’, he doesn’t even MENTION what he’s apologising for. He showed no remorse then and clearly still doesn’t now “.

During the university investigation, Samantha says the student “denied everything” and accused her of lying, insulted her and tried to degrade her character. She also says she had more than five eye witnesses, CCTV footage, and that the findings of an internal Durham Union investigation also ruled in her favour, yet the student allegedly did not offer any of his own evidence to protect his case.

Samantha has also shared an email from the university, which admitted to the apology being “minimal”. The email explained that although there are currently no specific requirements to the formal apology beyond apologising, in future provisions should be made so that a “reasonable standard of apology” is met.

The email goes on to apologise for not being more specific to the student as to what his apology should include, and offers to ask the student to “better” his apology.

The email from the university to Samantha

Samantha has criticised the university’s handling of the situation, and claims it was labelled a “Level 1 offence (aka. a lower level) – in what world is calling someone a dirty n-word not serious??”.

She goes on to say: “An apology and no-contact order isn’t sufficient. They claim to have a zero-tolerance racism policy, yet they clearly don’t take it seriously”.

In a statement to The Tab Durham, Durham University has responded to Samantha’s posts on social media, saying: “We are deeply sorry that one of our students has experienced abuse.

“We do not tolerate racism in any form and entirely condemn language of this kind.

“These allegations have been investigated by both Durham University and the Durham Union Society. Sanctions have been imposed in line with University policies and processes which go much further than those disclosed on social media.”

In an updated statement, Durham University has added: “We are concerned that the apology was not commensurate with the very serious nature of the offence. We will learn from this. In future, as part of our disciplinary processes, we will endeavour to ensure that responding parties offer meaningful apologies which fully acknowledge what has gone wrong, and accept full responsibility for this.”