Durham University says it has concluded an investigation into Rod Liddle’s controversial appearance at a South College Christmas formal last term, but has refused to be drawn on whether it will publish the outcome.
The University said the investigation had been carried out “in line with established University policies and procedures”, and that “a number of recommendations have been made”.
But the University refused to confirm whether it will disclose any of the findings, saying “it would be inappropriate to comment on what remains a confidential and ongoing process.”
Students behind the protest at South College in December are expected to call for the report’s immediate publication, saying a failure to release the report would show “Durham University does not care about marginalised students”.
Palatinate understands the group will call for a summer rent strike and a boycott of formal dinners, as well as encouraging all final-year students to hit the University with the lowest possible ranking in this year’s National Student Survey.
The organisers have previously threatened to apply to change college en masse next term should South Principal Professor Tim Luckhurst stay in position.
In December, Acting Vice-Chancellor Antony Long told students the investigation process “will not be in public and the outcome will not be immediate”.
He also noted that the Durham community “must work to create a tolerant, inclusive University that treats others with respect not arrogance, and that listens so as to understand others”, but that the investigation must be conducted “fairly and impartially”.
The Vice-Chancellor is now expected to determine what next steps should be taken based on the recommendations.
Niall Hignett, a first-year South student instrumental in last term’s student protests, told Palatinate, “My message to the University is this: get your act together, publish the report, and stop failing your students”.
“If we don’t see the report in the coming days, student leaders will start working on our next steps. The Luckhurst drama highlights one of many failings in a culture of letting students down. It either ends now, or we will begin working to make the university better, safer, and more inclusive in spite of a management in direct opposition to those ambitions.”
Durham Students’ Union President, Seun Twins, later joined calls for the investigation’s findings to be made public. Twins called for “transparency”, explaining that “where recommendations don’t relate to an ongoing disciplinary process involving Luckhurst’s misconduct, we see no reason why these should remain confidential”.
“If the investigation has made recommendations which will help our community to learn from the incident, and prevent hijacking of student social events for staff’s personal political crusades in the future, then these can’t remain confidential. Changing culture requires trust and trust requires transparency, participation and action.”
The University confirmed last term that it was aware in advance of Rod Liddle’s visit to Durham and that “arrangements were discussed”. Palatinate understands the University had recommended security be put in place at the event.
It is unclear whether a speech was approved as part of the visit, and the contents of the speech made by Liddle are understood to have not been known by the University in advance.
The speech sparked accusations of transphobia and racism from Durham student groups. The columnist had claimed the Left railed against “science or pure facts”, saying “a person with an X and a Y chromosome, that has a long, dangling penis, is scientifically a man, and that is pretty much, scientifically, the end of the story”.
He went on to say: “It is fairly easily proven that colonialism is not remotely the major cause of Africa’s problems, just as it is very easy to prove that the educational underachievement of British people of Caribbean descent or African Americans is nothing to do with institutional or structural racism”.
Liddle also talked about the UK’s forced adoption policy between 1945 and 1975, saying that attitudes now put the woman not the child first, and that anger about the policy did not take sufficient account of the child’s mental health and economic circumstances. He finished the speech with a message about the importance of listening to and doubting people’s opinions.
Before the start of the speech, Professor Luckhurst had shouted “pathetic” at students who walked out of the hall in protest at Liddle’s appearance at the Christmas formal.
The Principal later apologised to students for the remarks, saying: “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 for doing so. The students had as much right to absent themselves from the speech as my guest had to make it.”
Image: South College JCR