Professor Luckhurst will be present at a poorly attended formal this evening as South College students protest the Principal’s return to duties.
JCR sources have told Palatinate that Luckhurst offered his absence at the formal to the executive in early January, who held an emergency meeting and voted in favour of the proposal. But the Principal appears to have rescinded any offer, and nearly every member of the executive declined an invitation to attend the event.
Luckhurst is understood to have resumed all duties, including meetings, direct student emails and working in the office, but this will mark his first formal since commentator Rod Liddle controversially spoke at a Christmas formal in December. The University announced the conclusion of the investigation into the incident on 27th January.
Tonight’s Valentine’s Day-themed formal, due to start at 7pm and costing £10 a head, will be attended by just under 60 students. A standard South formal would normally see around 120 attendees – but the first formals of term tend to attract more. Around 250 attended the Christmas-themed formal on December 3rd.
One South student told Palatinate that planning to attend tonight’s formal was “social suicide”, and that “nobody wants to go because they are scared Luckhurst will be there”. The Principal had previously been barred from public-facing duties.
A comment on the college’s anonymous submissions platform said of formals, “I don’t want to miss out on such a characteristic part of the Durham Uni experience but as there’s been no real consequences from the Liddle incident I don’t want to support that environment at South”.
South College’s JCR held an emergency meeting on 14th January to discuss whether, in their opinion, Tim Luckhurst should attend future formals. Typically, Luckhurst makes a speech before and after the dinner. Seven committee members voted against his attendance; four abstained and none voted in favour.
Almost all of the JCR executive committee are expected to stay away from tonight’s event; ordinarily, several members would be seated at the high table with the Principal. The College’s JCR Chair resigned from his position earlier today. His role previously involved helping to organise formals, but he is yet to comment on the reasons for this decision.
The Christmas formal incident precipitated an investigation into the events by Durham University. This concluded in late January, but the University has refused to release the findings or recommendations, insisting that “we need to first allow our internal process to take place and conclude before we are in a position to comment further”.
An email to students encouraging booking onto the event said there would be “no guest speakers” and that “we know that there are people who still wish to attend”. JCR President Sean Hannigan has proposed launching ‘gala dinners’ to be attended only by members of South College’s JCR.
Durham University commented on the investigation’s conclusion two weeks ago. “Following the formal dinner at South College on 3 December 2021, we launched an investigation which has been carried out in line with established University policies and procedures. That investigation has now concluded and a number of recommendations have been made. It would be inappropriate to comment on what remains a confidential and ongoing process.
“All staff and student processes related to individuals are confidential and will remain so, including after they have been concluded. We expect there will be lessons learned from the event of 3 December that we will share and reflect on as a community. We need to first allow our internal process to take place and conclude before we are in a position to comment further.”
Image: Tim Packer