Protesters demand South College report is made public as investigation concludes

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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”. 

“A number of recommendations have been made”

Durham university

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

9 thoughts on “Protesters demand South College report is made public as investigation concludes

  • perhaps you should remind the activist students that we do not tolerate such drivel in the world of work.

    They need to remember, out here, you work, achieve results or you are sacked. They won’t be so woke and activist, when they realise they cannot afford to pay their electric bills/food bills and council tax bills on universal credit.

    stop whining and trying to control the narrative, open up to others opinions even if you don’t like them because you will find that open debate and all opinions are welcome outside of universities.

    • Strange how someone who is such an expert in the world of work seems unaware of the fact that drunkenly calling your customers “pathetic” is not something that is particularly encouraged in most fields. Also, if you don’t think that industrial action is something that happens in the world of work then I would be fascinated to hear why you think that it is called such.

  • If you consider anyone who disagrees with you a fascist, then yourself, not the one you are accusing, is a fascist.

    Being woke means anything must be tuned to pleasing certain minorities regardless of common sense, facts, or even science. So students activists are not tolerant or kind; they are promoting totalitarianism in universities. Government must take actions to punish them in order to protect democracy. Otherwise these students, once they become the leaders of society, will cancel the orders of the nation.

  • I do like the comments that tell people to stop caring about others.
    You are not allowed to reply, you are not allowed to object, otherwise you are woke.
    ” students activists are not tolerant or kind” what a lovely thing to say “Government must take actions to punish them” … proper fascist acts.

    Is it not lovely to see people caring about be talked down to, rather than discussing with.

    • I definitely agree with the spirit and attitude of this Mr Connolly. However, this comment reflects five problems, or threats, we are faced with in democratic society:

      1. These activists and protesters will not “discuss” with you. As we have witnessed, they usually want to ban your opinions, cancel the public figures, or threaten you verbally or even physically.

      2. “Not caring about others” is increasingly equal to “not supporting cancel culture”. If you don’t think a historical figure or an opinion is racist, these student activists will accuse you of “not caring about others”.

      3. We have frequently seen that woke activists try to ban other opinions in universities. However, when their extreme wokeism is rejected by the majority, they accuse others of restricting their freedom of speech. These woke students are not kind; on the contrary, they are weaponising morality to impose censorship in universities. As we have seen, vastly most of the protests aimed at cancelling an invitee were organised by the left-wing students. We have rarely heard of an invitee get cancelled by the conservative side.

      4. If these woke students really want to “care about others”, want to practice “anti-XXphobia” and “anti-imperialism”, they should protest in countries like Qatar and Russia for LGBT rights; they should join an army to protect Ukraine from being invaded; they should protest in countries like India for environmentalism; instead of cancelling the freedom that they are given in a democratic society.

      5. Having said the previous four problems, we can conclude that woke protesters are maliciously threatening the freedom of speech and even the freedom of scientific research. Because they don’t discuss with any other opinion holders and their opinions are elaborately dressed in good morality, it’s almost impossible to stop them cancelling different opinions. Therefore, government has to take actions. We mustn’t intuitively consider governmental interference as fascism. As a matter of fact, when the public and the society cannot stop toxic fashion, government must save democracy with assertive measures.

      I think I’ve made myself clear. In summary, fixing the woke students will not undermine the freedom of speech on campus; instead, if we allow them to cancel other opinions,the freedom of speech in universities will be undermined. If a group of people don’t want to solve disputes with a democratic manner, they shouldn’t deserve any democratic manner.

      • It is kind of you to agree with the spirit of my short comment,

        I feel it only polite to discuss the 5 points you raise in relation to this specific item

        1. “Activists and protestors not discussing. Cancelling and threatening.”
        This was a Christmas dinner – not a debate, so no chance to “discuss was allowed, the only threats were to the students ( I prefer to call them that) who had paid to go to a Christmas dinner and were presented by an individual who made “jokes and comments” that were offensive to them. Surely they have a right to leave, if they are not allowed to discuss or debate? And the threats and abuse came from the Principal and his wife. Lets be clear indeed the Durham college head has apologised for calling students “pathetic” while his wife called them Arses.

        2. I am an archaeologist and deal with history. I have heard all the arguments before.. from how can you dig Roman archaeology when they had slaves etc etc.. the whole 9 yards. However, what I say is that acknowledging this, understanding it and talking about it, does not lessen the study, it rather allows a more nuanced discussion – so.. in Scotland, we are coming to terms with the wealth of the nation being based (in part) by the suffering of others. This does not mean I am ashamed of being who I am, it just means I am more aware of why. I do not feel cancelled, or lost my history, I just understand it more. As to cancelling racist statues. I guess we are still able to remember who Hitler, Stalin and Saddam are – you cant cancel history, you can only enhance and understand it.

        3. “when their extreme wokeism is rejected by the majority, they accuse others of restricting their freedom of speech. “
        and I see the same here, where people who have a right to walk out, are being told that they don’t have a right to speak out. I Do enjoy language tht involves words like the majority, when this in itself is an opinion. The majority of my colleagues agree that choosing Liddle was a mistake for a nice Christmas Dinner speaker. Freedom of speech is often mistakenly seen as freedom to say anything, no matter if you offend people or not.

        4. It is a strange argument, often used, that if “they want to oppose xxxx then they should not pick on poor liddle, but do it in xxxx or xxxx (insert country ) The surprise comes when it is not an either or. That a person can only do one thing… I have found, to my joy I can support others affected by abuse, AND condemn acts of violence and abuse, but, and here is the exciting thing, I can do it for more than one thing at a time. I can also distinguish between country politics, personal politics, and social issues and feelings – its complicated, and made more and more complicated in todays society. I can also take opposing views with the same people over different issues. Nuance and honesty are required. All the things you mention can be done at the same time as highlighting the issues with Liddles views.

        5. “Because they don’t discuss with any other opinion holders “

        And yet here we are, doing just that. – I do not agree with your views, but I don’t cancel them, as you are not cancelling mine. But here, we can discuss.. while at the Christmas dinner they could not. If they could have challenged Liddle – then all good. But imagine if I forced you to listen to me,… and you were not allowed to reply… that’s not free speech – that is imposed speech.. and does democracy no good at all. True democracy allows for discussion

        • I’ll go along with your response in order to keep a logical continuum:

          1. No matter it is a Christmas dinner or whatever, it is a speech given by an invitee. Of course, a formal speech is not a public debate. However, what if there is a speech offensive to the conservatives (e.g. anti-patriotism)? Should they protest for cancelling it too? We have seen that the protests for banning an external speech were mostly launched by woke students, or left-wing students, instead of the other side. When I say the woke people do not “discuss” with non-wokeists, I don’t only point at this specific speech or any other similar occasions; it should be noticed in a much wider scope that people holding left-wing ideologies, not only students, tend to accuse dissenting opinions of showing racism, transphobia or homophobia etc. and cancel them. The students who felt offensive should, of course, leave; and it’s clear that teaching staff should never abuse students verbally like using the word “pathetic”. But asking for banning an opinion is totally on another level.

          2. For this case I fully agree with you. But your mindset is not acceptable to most of the woke students and intellectuals. They are going to tune the whole history to a narrative about slavery and racism; because in their eyes, if a nation’s history had such a stain, they’ll believe the whole nation is guilty. Then you get CRT, forcing every individual to feel guilty and forget the contributions made by the nation to all human beings. As for cancelling statues of “racists”, we have to agree that everyone born 100 and 200 years ago was a racist, including the ancestors of those wokeists. More importantly, those “racists” contributed to the principles and foundations of this democratic and liberal society that we can enjoy today. Without the racist called Churchill, all of us would have been physically exterminated by Nazi hence anti-racism wouldn’t have any chance to exist. But woke intellectuals want (us) to measure everything with their woke standard; if we disagree, we are racists in their eyes. I definitely agree that textbooks and media must objectively describe the racism and sexism harboured by some historical figures; but cancelling them, or purely memorising them as racists or other -ists, is totalitarianism.

          3. Again, walking away from a speech is absolutely normal; in a democratic society, we have this freedom. But don’t forget, the “majority” in an elite institute might be a tiny minority in the whole society. And “majority” is usually formed by nature, instead of subjective classification. For example, we are born with a natural gender; but now woke activists think saying “ladies and gentlemen” is offensive to trans hence must be cancelled—why must the majority cancel their language and behaviour? If we all have to change our pronouns in order to please pro-trans activists, wouldn’t it be insulting to the 99.99%? Would printing homo flags on pedestrian lanes cause inconvenience to disabled people? Ironically, the trans and homo people I know do not feel offensive about the issues which the activists think offensive. As for the freedom of speech, any facts and opinions based on facts should enjoy this freedom. Now the problem is: people in universities take factual information for hate speech. E.g. suppose there is a statistical figure that indicated refugees caused more violent crimes in certain areas. As it was statistics, then it was a fact without any subjective opinion. However, protesters and activists would insist the number is racist, thus would want to ban the public from discussing it. Similarly, whether Africa’s poverty is more caused by colonialism or current political circumstances is a social scientific topic, not a moral topic; but woke intellectuals force you to owe it to imperialism, because other opinions are racism. Of course, hate speech must be banned; but “freedom of speech” means the woke students have no right to cancel the display of facts or opinions based on facts.

          4. The student activists tend to fight a war against history or opinions, because the dead cannot refute or punish them, and cancelling a dissenting opinion in a democratic society will not lead to any malicious consequence, especially the call for cancelling is dressed in good morality. But practising morality means sacrifice; those who volunteer in Africa and LGBT service are usually keeping Ivy League, Oxbridge or Wall Street in mind, instead of the agony of the unfortunate people. When you call for a protest for cancelling all fossil fuel power stations within a week, thousands of students in Durham will join you; but if you call for studying MSc New and Renewable Energy or BSc General Engineering, you will get very few followers; because studying a course innovating green energy is much more difficult than shouting slogans on the highland of morality. Same for any other woke paths.

          5. Once again, in a lecture in which we are not allowed to challenge the speaker, leaving the lecture theatre is our freedom in a democratic society. Since we are allowed to leave, then we are not forced to listen (but calling students “pathetic” is unacceptable). So there is still freedom of speech, just in a different manner. As a university, they should invite all kinds of external speakers; and democracy inherently means we should accept offence and we also have the right to offence others (of course, insulting jokes should be excluded), as long as the offence is based on facts—disagreeing with someone is an offence, but in a democracy it means we accept this offence. If a university only wants to invite explicit speakers that hold a certain ideology and link all issues to certain -ism, then it is indoctrinating students, like Nazi and communist countries do/did.

          Sorry for this long winding reply. In summary, woke people do not care about whether the information is fact or not; as long as they think the information is offensive against their feeling/morality, they will want to cancel it. “Freedom of Speech” means any opinions based on factual information should be accepted and debated; and democracy means being able to accept offence and being able to offence. If protesters and activists want to ban all objects that are offensive just to them and do not allow others to disagree, then they should be regarded as threats against democracy.

    • This is not about inviting people to stop caring about others, on the contrary, it’s an invite to start caring not just about physical diversity, but also about diversity of opinions, tolerance, freedom of thought and expression. I personally do not agree with Mr. Liddle’s opinions, but I strongly support his right to express them. It is not by cancelling people we disagree with that we can achieve a more just society, it is confrontation, exchange, and diversity that ultimately lead to social progress and true inclusivity. The ultimatum those students are giving the university (“fire a guy who didn’t even express an opinion but merely got disappointed at students leaving before a speech, or else we will do all we can to bring the college and university down”) it’s simply shameful, and diminishes the very battle for rights they’re trying to promote, which would have otherwise been very honorable and just. I side with trans people’s rights, but I would want nothing to do with this group of students.

  • Thank you,

    I think that was a clear summary of your view, and as an opinion it is not all wrong in my opinion (define right and wrong anyway) at all, though I suppose the issue we have here, is something we already (in the main ) agree with.

    WE both like freedom of speech, but we also acknowledge freedom of reply. In this particular case (and we must remain within the parameters of what this is about) A College Christmas dinner had a guest that those turning up to it were not aware of until he was introduced. They then had to either listen to him, or leave ( those that left were then told they were pathetic and arses ). So far so good.

    Was it a good choice of speaker for a Christmas Dinner, knowing that he was not going to just make some mildly humorous speech, that suited the Christmas dinner vibe? I suspect we both know the answer. Was it fair to have a speaker that was safe in the knowledge that nobody could challenge his monologue? I suspect we both know the answer again – given that neither you not I would like a one sided point of view.

    The use of Woke is a smokescreen to this particular issue. Should Durham publish the report. – absolutely. For openness and freedom.

    I would love to debate Liddles views ( I disagree with most of them – not all, but most) , and I agree that people should be ready to hear other and often difficult views, so they can respond appropriately, however, this was a Christmas Dinner, he was an unannounced speaker, and the subsequent denunciation of students as pathetic and now as woke is offensive to the idea that true freedom, means the right to reply.

    Just a final thought on this single particular issue


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