Durham Students’ Union has been blasted for demanding a leading academic resign after he invited journalist Rod Liddle to talk at a dinner party.
The Free Speech Union slammed the five officers who penned a rambling statement in a bid to oust South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst.
Seun Twins, Jack Ballingham, Jonah Graham, Declan Merrington and Charlie Procter claimed hosting one of the UK’s best known writers was an ‘abuse of power’.
It comes as footage emerged of the professor and his wife Dorothy talking to ‘woke’ students who stormed out of the speech on Friday night.
They appeared to be taking them to task over their treatment of Mr Liddle, who they flung vile insults at as he left.
The couple tried to explain the importance of free speech on campuses after the youngsters claimed they were ‘frightened’ of the national journalist’s jokes.
Meanwhile the institution launched an investigation into the leading academic and barred him from duties.
He had branded the walk out ‘pathetic’ before emailing them to apologise after a mob of students sent a barrage of emails to vice-chancellor Antony Long.
It is understood Professor Luckhurst is not allowed to speak to anybody about the event – and he did not make a scheduled campus speech last night.
The five officers penned a rambling statement in a bid to oust South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst (pictured)
Seun Twins, Jack Ballingham, Jonah Graham, Declan Merrington and Charlie Procter claimed hosting one of the UK’s best known writers (pictured) was an ‘abuse of power’
Last night Durham SU moved to try to oust Professor Luckhurst in a rambling statement about an ‘abuse of power’ and ‘calculated behaviour’.
It claimed: ‘The Principal of South College has insulted and humiliated the student members of the College.
‘Tim Luckhurst, the former editor of a national newspaper, knew exactly what he was doing when he hijacked a Christmas party and allowed his personal friend to spout vile propaganda he knew would cause division.
‘His shameful attempt to excuse this pantomime by pretending it was for the benefit of students’ education is disgraceful.
‘He has failed in his duty of care as Principal to South College students, and as a leader in our University community.’
The Free Speech Union said: ‘The vilification and abuse of Professor Luckhurst for inviting Rod Liddle to give an after-dinner speech is an absolute disgrace.
‘If students cannot cope with hearing opinions they find disagreeable they shouldn’t be at university.
‘Durham says it believes in upholding academic free speech, but if so why has it placed Dr Luckhurst under investigation for describing the decision of students to walk out of the speech as ‘pathetic’?
‘In expressing that perfectly lawful view, Dr Luckhurst was exercising his right to free speech and penalising him for doing so could well be a breach of the law that requires universities to uphold free speech on campus.
‘Dr Luckhurst is a member of the Free Speech Union and we are supporting him in full.’
Fresh footage emerged today of the former national newspaper editor and his wife talking to students during the event on Friday night.
He was speaking to them calmly and appeared to be helping them understand universities are supposed to be bastions of free speech.
His audience stood with their mouths wide open before Mrs Luckhurst interrupted her husband.
She asked: ‘What are you frightened of you silly… what are you frightened of?’ One of the students squealed back: ‘What do you mean?’
The rest of their exchange was inaudible but Mrs Luckhurst went on to repeat the word ‘a***’ before another asked: ‘Don’t we all have one?’
She tweeted later that night: ‘Bunch of inadequates thought it was clever to walk out on a speech tonight because they were afraid of what the speaker said…’
She added: ‘Incidentally they thought it was ok to ask my husband to apologise for my comments…
‘I know it’s an old notion but I can speak for myself. Maybe the woke generation haven’t heard of women’s equality.’
Fresh footage emerged today of the former national newspaper editor and his wife (pictured) talking to students during the event on Friday night
Mr Liddle, the associate editor of the Spectator, started his speech at a college formal by joking he was disappointed not to see any sex workers.
It was in reference to a recent controversy over safety training provided by the university to students working in the sex industry.
He also said the Left were ignoring science over transgender issues, colonialism was not the main cause of Africa’s problems and the underachievement of pupils of Caribbean descent had nothing to do with institutional racism.
After the speech, students bayed ‘disgusting’ and ‘racist’ at Liddle as he walked out of the venue.
That evening, a Stonewall poster was stuck on the door of Professor Luckhurst’s office reading, ‘Some people are trans. Get over it!’
Students wrote to Durham vice-chancellor Mr Long, claiming Liddle made ‘transphobic, sexist, racist and classist remarks’.
The open letter, signed by more than 1,000 students, complained they felt ‘distressed’ and ’emotional’ after his speech.
The university’s student union said Professor Luckhurst’s position was ‘untenable’ while the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said it was ‘appalled’.
After the speech, students shouted ‘disgusting’ and ‘racist’ at Liddle as he walked out of the venue. That evening, a Stonewall poster was stuck on the door of Professor Luckhurst’s office reading, ‘Some people are trans. Get over it!’ Pictured: Durham South College
Following the backlash, Professor Luckhurst emailed students on Sunday to apologise, according to Palatinate.
The email said the students had ‘as much right to absent themselves from the speech as my guest had to make it’.
It added: ‘I responded to their decision by reminding the students that South College is committed to the defence of free speech.
”When they did not return to their seats, I called their walkout ‘pathetic’. My anger reflected my sincere commitment to freedom of speech.
‘However, I was wrong to describe the students’ action as pathetic and I apologise unreservedly.’
Professor Luckhurst added: ‘My guest’s topic was tolerance. He spoke about the importance of listening to alternative perspectives. He attacked nobody.’
Liddle told the Daily Mail last night: ‘He didn’t call the students pathetic, he called the walkout pathetic. I’m not racist and I’m not transphobic.
‘I want a world where transgender people can live in happiness, dignity and equality with everybody else. I loathe racism.’
He added: ‘The main point of my speech was that I’m often wrong, and I know I’m often wrong.
‘We have to have tolerance of other opinions and doubt in our own opinions.’
Last night, Durham University said it ‘categorically does not agree with the comments reported from a speech given by an external speaker at this occasion.
It said it is concerned at reports the behaviours exhibited at the occasion fall short of those that we expect’.
A spokesman added: ‘We are looking into this as a matter of urgency, and an investigation into the circumstances is now under way.’
The Mail has tried to contact Professor Luckhurst for comment.
Durham SU launches bid to oust leading academic from his job after ‘woke’ students stormed out of a speech because they were ‘frightened’ of journalist’s words
The statement in full:
‘The Principal of South College has insulted and humiliated the student members of the College. Tim Luckhurst, the former editor of a national newspaper, knew exactly what he was doing when he hijacked a Christmas party and allowed his personal friend to spout vile propaganda he knew would cause division. His shameful attempt to excuse this pantomime by pretending it was for the benefit of students’ education is disgraceful. He has failed in his duty of care as Principal to South College students, and as a leader in our University community.
Inviting your friend to deliberatively provoke and shock students in their own home is a violation of their community. South students who were enjoying their Christmas celebrations were compromised by their Principal, who prioritised his own political agenda over their interests. Attempts to spin this act as a progressive strike for ‘education’ is an insult to every student and actual academic at Durham. This is hazing, pure and simple; a straightforward abuse of power, which Luckhurst knew would provoke those who refused to silently submit to his theatrical brand of bullying to stand up, and face his insults. We fully stand by our students who exercised their freedom of speech rights to leave this sorry excuse for an ‘education’. We are also grateful to the very many academics at Durham, and beyond, who are calling out this attempt to corrupt their professional reputation for selfish reasons.
The Principal’s attempts to frame his calculated behaviour within the freedom of speech discourse is disingenuous, and does a disservice to those genuinely fighting threats to academic freedom across the world. We will challenge the Acting Vice-Chancellor on how it could ever be procedurally correct for a Principal to take it upon himself to ruin a Christmas party because his ‘right’ to ‘educate’ students was more important than their right to just enjoy their dinner, with friends, in their home. The students at South College deserve a proper apology, not just self-aggrandising quotes from Orwell.
We must also acknowledge the, at best inappropriate and at worst antagonistic, behaviour by the Principal’s wife. Guests in our community are expected to respect our community. Our Colleges are not battlegrounds for childish belittlement; they are learning communities, and respect is fundamental to learning.
We have read a lot about the Principal’s ‘rights’ over the weekend. We have seen little recognition of his responsibilities. We ask that our community therefore focuses not on the distraction he has invited, but rather on the standards we should expect of a College Principal compared to the behaviour we have seen. Watch the videos of Friday night. Read the testimony of students who were present and the statements of our College representatives and SU Associations. This is not the behaviour of a man we want educating, leading and supporting our students.
Durham’s problematic culture is endemic. This is not an isolated event, but a result of a longstanding failure to properly address unacceptable behaviour. We have welcomed the recent commitments and efforts from the University leadership to tackle the historic problems, and this incident shows that the change needed extends beyond policy and into culture. This is a test for all of us. If we accept this style of leading a College as normal then what we saw on Friday will become the norm.
Notwithstanding any other positive things done at South College, Tim Luckhurst’s position at Durham is untenable. No Principal gets to abuse their students, call them pathetic, and then attack them for wanting to just be safe in their home. The Principal of South College’s position as an intellectual and pastoral leader is now a threat, not an asset, to our collegiate community.
We must make clear our commitment to our values, and demonstrate our anger that this response has been necessary, so we encourage all students, staff, and supporters to contact the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (College and Student Experience) to make their views known. The events of Friday are acknowledged as unacceptable, and we must now have the wider conversation about what we expect of our leaders, and the conversation must be bigger than the misdeeds of one stubborn man.
Finally, in situations like these, when someone is in the wrong but convinced of their ‘rights’, it can be incredibly easy to help them make themselves a martyr. Our community can’t afford to have someone who so clearly offends our values subjected to a rushed or flawed process that lets them claim to be a victim. We have to trust that the University leadership will do the right thing, even though the process won’t be in public and the outcome won’t be immediate. We should rightly be angry at the people who violate the values of our community, but we understand why institutional public statements are cautious in these situations. We’ll judge them on their response and how they demonstrate that Tim Luckhurst is not untouchable.’