Durham is a university for people who felt boarding school didn’t last quite long enough. A cobbled campus wrapped around a golden-stoned cathedral and an 11th-century castle, it is a collection of small, pally colleges that feel like distinct institutions in their own right. St. Cuthbert’s for the Rugby boys. St. John’s for the religious types. Hatfield for the red-trousered brigade. St. Hild and St. Bede for the trust-fund kids with drum-and-bass nights. When I was there, friends took to calling it “the Resort,” because the chummy venues and chocolate-box vistas reminded them of their second homes in Chamonix or Courchevel. (Another joked that the university was actually pretty diverse: “You’ve got Stowe boys, Etonians, Harrovians, Downe House girls, Marlburians … ”) It is cliquey, sporty, leafy, academic—the plummier, slightly dimmer younger brother to Oxford and Cambridge.
Which is why it was shocking, but not necessarily surprising, to hear of the latest scandal at the university—the unearthing of a Freshers’ Week contest where “posh lads” aimed to compete to sleep with the “poorest girl” on campus. The game was planned in what was, according to the Daily Mail,a Facebook group chat believed to be for incoming freshers with the title Durham Boys Making All the Noise, which also contained discussions about sexual assault. One alleged freshman asked: “Aren’t Durham dead on it with sexism … since that lad from Durham was accused of rape a few years ago?” Another replied: “I know maybe 15 girls who say they’ve been raped and not one taken to court. Or a police report. And women will always believe women mostly.” A third wrote: “It’s called being a whore.”