South College: University knew about Liddle visit and “arrangements were discussed”

By and Poppy Askham

Durham University has confirmed to Palatinate that it was aware in advance that columnist Rod Liddle would be attending the Christmas formal at South College last Friday. 

They said: “The University knew about the visit and arrangements were discussed with the College.” Palatinate understands the University had recommended security be put in place at the event. The contents of the speech made by Liddle, however, are understood to have not been known by the University in advance.

Luckhurst has been asked to refrain from any public-facing roles as college Principal and Associate Pro Vice Chancellor (Engagement) whilst the University investigates the circumstances surrounding the controversial speech given by Liddle at the event. 

Liddle has publicly called for the University to apologise to him and Luckhurst and to reimburse his travel expenses. He told GB News he expected the reaction from students, but did not expect the reaction of the University, saying the University decided to act “to appease these jabbering infants”. 

Over 300 people attended a protest at South College today

Luckhurst was not permitted to participate in a University trip to America for a journalism-related University fundraising event. 

Over 300 people attended a protest at South College today, holding banners including “pathetic arse”, “Luckhurst out” and “Black Lives Matter”. Organisers who had asked to meet with Luckhurst to discuss Friday’s events were told by Vice Principal Lee Worden that he was willing to engage but barred from doing so. 

In an email to students this morning, acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Antony Long announced that Professor Jane MacNaughton would be leading an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the formal. 

MacNaughton will compile a report by mid-January 2022 and the Vice-Chancellor will then determine the University’s course of action. 

Long encouraged students and staff to respect the investigation and not to contact MacNaughton. He also acknowledged that some would be frustrated by the long timescale, explaining “the investigation has to be thorough and follow our agreed policies”.

“I do not duck the fact that Durham has at times a reputation for being elitist”

acting vice chancellor antony long

Professor Luckhurst has come under particular fire for shouting “pathetic” at students walking out of the formal just before Rod Liddle was due to start his speech. Durham Students’ Union has also criticised the Principal’s wife’s behaviour as “inappropriate” following a widely-shared video of her calling students “arses” in the aftermath of the event. She told The Times she was surrounded by shouting students at the time and had felt intimidated: “I shouldn’t have said what I did but it had been a long day and it was very tense”.

Addressing the events of Friday night,  Long said: “I do not duck the fact that Durham has at times a reputation for being elitist, for not always being as welcoming or as inclusive as we would like to be.

“I know many of us want to leave that reputation behind. To do that we must work to create a tolerant, inclusive University that treats others with respect not arrogance, and that listens so as to understand others.

“I take huge pride in the way in which our community is broadly responding, by the seriousness and the determination that so many of you bring to the debate. I hope that through this experience, we become a stronger University.”

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