The open letter came after the Guardian revealed that a college principal had been allowed to remain in post despite complaints of intimidating behaviour towards colleagues.
Prof Adekunle Adeyeye, the head of Trevelyan College, is alleged to have reduced colleagues to tears and made sexist remarks. Two people had filed formal grievances against him in 16 months and three have departed because of concerns about his manner.
He stepped down from the university’s bullying policy committee after the Guardian approached him in August, but he remains in post as college principal.
The letter, signed by 100 staff, alumni and group leaders representing nearly 8,000 students, said the Adeyeye matter was “just one example of a culture that has been seen time and time again among both staff and students”.
Anya Chuykov, president of the university’s Intersectional Feminism Society, accused management of an “unacceptable” complacency in tackling bullying and misogyny.
“The university should be setting an example at an administrative level,” she said. “Instead, it is showing both students and staff that poor behaviour can be excused and that their safety and concerns are not worthy of attention.
“This is not an isolated incident, and the behaviour of Durham University speaks to the toxic atmosphere that so many students and staff must live with at universities and schools up and down the country. Students and staff must join forces to dismantle this culture of permissiveness towards bullying, harassment and misogyny.”
Durham University said it does not accept any form of prejudice or discrimination on campus and said it condemned any incidents of bullying, harassment or misogyny “in the strongest possible terms”.
It added: “We are always open to hearing directly from students or staff regarding concerns or suggestions, and would welcome the opportunity to meet the organisers of the open letter to understand their experiences as well as the evidence.
“We have recently taken measures to promote openness and transparency on student conduct cases through publicly communicating outcomes and we are working with students to rebuild confidence that that we will listen, investigate promptly and take decisive action.”
Adeyeye was contacted for comment.