Palatinate have bid for independence after funding cuts from Durham Students’ Union and have also been offered a donation of £20,000 by The Mail on Sunday
Durham University’s student newspaper, Palatinate, has revealed that they have made a bid for independence from Durham Student’s Union. Palatinate have also been offered a £20,000 donation by The Mail on Sunday if they go independent from Durham Students’ Union.
An ongoing legal battle has been taking place over the ownership of the title Palatinate, between the newspaper and Durham SU. The decision by the SU to trademark rights over Palatinate’s name follows the ongoing resistance of the SU to calls for independence by the student newspaper since the start of this year.
The calls for independence follow two years of funding cuts to the paper by Durham SU, which according to a recent Palatinate editorial has since forced the paper’s physical print edition to be “funded entirely by donations and advertising”.
In response to these calls, a Durham SU spokesperson said “Palatinate has been funded, supported and developed as an asset for the benefit of students by Durham SU for decades and has been incredibly successful under the current support framework.” Durham SU recently informed Palatinate that they would receive no guaranteed funding whatsoever at the start of the current academic year.
More than 50 current and former editors of the paper, including the BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine, have backed the independence bid. Speaking on the issue to The Mail on Sunday, Vine said: “We know why the student union doesn’t like them – it’s because once in a while the newspaper prints an article that is critical.”
According to The Mail on Sunday, the offer of a £20,000 donation to “secure Palatinate’s future” and support their financial independence from the union, will still allow ’”Palatinate [to] remain entirely editorially independent of The Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers.”
Managing editor of The Mail on Sunday, Robyn Kelly, has reassured the paper: “these are donations and you are not required to provide us with anything in return.”
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Palatinate Editors-in-Chief Joe Rossiter and Nicole Wu have since responded: “It is important to clarify that this donation has neither been accepted nor rejected at this stage, and it will be for the Editors and Editorial Board at the time of leaving Durham SU to decide whether or not to accept.”
In the same response, they also proceeded to criticise the coverage of the funding, writing: “we are disappointed at the insinuation in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday that Durham SU sabbatical officers were the driving force behind the trademark application…Attacking individuals has never been the focus of our independence effort, and we categorically do not see this as a product of the ‘far-left’.”
A report unearthed by The Mail on Sunday in 2020 found the Durham Union as “undemocratic” and gripped by a “toxic culture”. The report, conducted by the higher education consultancy firm MiraGold, also reported “the level of hatred towards the student body…have created this mistrust and irreparable reputation damage”.
The results of the National Student Survey in July 2020 also revealed just 29% of Durham student respondents found the Durham Students’ Union to be effectively representing their academic interests – the lowest score across all 137 UK universities.
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