Durham University has come under fire after a newly-released code of conduct suggested that the word “nonce,” a British slang term referring to pedophiles or other sexual predators, was “homophobic.”
The new College Sport Code of Conduct for Spectators, published at the end of last year, was designed to clamp down on offensive chants thrown by audiences during sports matches, according to the Palatinate, the University’s student-run newspaper.
However, the code included a section that stated that “homophobic chanting, such [as] using ‘nonce’ and ‘rent boy’ will not be tolerated in any way.”
Speaking to the Palatinate, Deborah Acheampong, Durham Student Union’s Welfare and Liberation Officer, and Dan Lonsdale, President of the Student Union, said that during a meeting held before the code was published, they raised their concerns that implying homosexuals were pedophiles was, in fact, homophobic. According to the two officers, minutes of the meeting indicated that this would be amended.
“Nonce is not a homophobic slur and any suggestion that it might be is in itself entirely homophobic, reductive and offensive to the community that such a document seeks to protect in the first place – points which were raised within the meeting,” the officers said.
“Such behaviour from official university leadership does not set a good precedent. We hope Team Durham will amend the document and continue to treat such matters with greater attention and care.”
On Facebook, students shared the sentiment, with one writing: “Durham classing nonce, a word which means someone who commits predatory sexual crime or activity, as homophobic is one of the most implicitly homophobic things I’ve ever seen. The idea of predatory homosexuality is clearly very alive in these people’s heads to get the ops [sic] so wrong when trying to do right.”
In a statement, Quentin Sloper, Director of Student Enrichment at Durham University, said that they “do not tolerate any form of abuse or intimidation within our University community,” adding that the “College Sport Code of Conduct for Spectators was put in place, following extensive consultation with our student leaders, to help address concerning behaviors by some spectators at sports matches, particularly College floodlit fixtures.”
Sloper claimed that there was “no intention to cause offence,” and that they “remain open to reviewing the Code where appropriate – the intention has always been to review and refresh it, with our student leaders, at least every year.”
He confirmed that the University would “contact Durham Students’ Union to understand what changes to the Code officers feel are appropriate,” and would “consider any proposals with colleagues in the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit.”