More than 300 protestors congregated at South College to call for “a safer, more inclusive University” following student outcry at a controversial speech given by Rod Liddle at the College’s Christmas formal last Friday.
Organisers opened the protest by telling students “he can’t get away with it”, and speakers from numerous student groups went on to criticise Professor Luckhurst for shouting “pathetic” at students who left the formal just before Liddle’s speech and to demonstrate solidarity with the students who walked out.
The protest included testimonies from South College students who attended the formal, including those who spoke to Professor Luckhurst and his wife afterwards.
Confirmation that the University knew about Rod Liddle’s attendance before the formal broke during the protest. One South College student commented on this: “this is not just Tim’s Luckhurst’s failure, but the University’s failure to let students know”.
South College JCR President Sean Hannigan took to the podium first, calling Rod Liddle’s remarks “deliberately inflammatory” and telling protestors “we must resist”. He also told students “the college is still here for you”.
Several chants were initiated during the demonstration, including “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Tim Luckhurst has got to go”. Protestors also chanted “Pathetic? Proud!” and “When minority rights are under attack, what do we do? Fight back!”. Later students shouted “We want change!” and sang ‘Solidarity Forever’.
DPOCA President Kezia Mbonye told the crowd “We are calling for his resignation”, and emphasised that the events of the formal were “incompatible with the University’s values”. Mbonye also highlighted the issue that “free speech can so easily be conflated with hate speech”.
Alex Hamilton, the Non-binary and Trans Representative for the LGBT+ Association, told students “I am happy, I am free, and I am proud”. Addressing Luckhurst directly, they said “you cannot get away with telling students they shouldn’t be at university”, and that “the apology was pathetic”.
Other speakers claimed that “Luckhurst has betrayed what Durham stands for” and that “he should resign or be fired, whichever comes first”.
Lucy Milburn, from DWCSA, said “formals can be alienating for marginalised people”, condemning the invitation of Rod Liddle as “beyond inappropriate”. She emphasised that “freedom of speech does not include the right to an audience” and finished by stating that DWCSA supports the call for Tim Luckhurst to resign.
Representatives from Durham UCU were present and expressed solidarity with the assembled students: “each one of you deserves to be here at University”. One member praised the “powerful and compassionate response from students”.
“You stood up for yourselves and your marginalised peers. Durham UCU stands in solidarity with you, and we will support you all the way”.
South College students were later invited to give testimony about their experiences at the formal dinner. One student wearing a t-shirt bearing the word “pathetic” and quotes from the South College handbook, compared the handbook to Tim Luckhurst’s actions in his speech.
Durham SU Welfare and Liberation Officer Jonah Graham also spoke, explaining that “this is not a free speech issue”, and saying that the principal of a college has a “pastoral duty of care… which was lost on Tim”.
Images: Theo Burman