Durham University refuses to publish report investigating Rod Liddle's speech

Durham University has sparked controversy after refusing to publish a report investigating Rod Liddle’s invitation to speak at a winter formal.

Leah Graham
14th February 2022
Durham University has sparked controversy after refusing to publish a report investigating Rod Liddle’s invitation to speak at a winter formal.

The columnist was invited to attend and address students at a Christmas formal, leading to some staging a walkout during the event in protest. Students were unaware of who the guest speaker was beforehand, those who left during the speech were branded ‘pathetic’ by the college Principal, Tim Luckhurst.

Durham University’s student newspaper reported how Mr Liddle began his speech by making a joke about sex workers in reference to the institution's decision to support students in this field of work. Other aspects of the speech included transphobic remarks, racist comments about colonialism and criticising single mothers.

The university issued a statement after the formal expressing that they do not agree with the views given in the speech and that they would begin looking into the event “as a matter of urgency.”

A number of students on the JCR committee identify as queer or non-binary and stated they felt disgusted at some views expressed in the speech and were “insulted they were not consulted about Mr Liddle’s invitation beforehand.”

In response to the event, an open letter was submitted to the university by a number of societies, including Durham’s Working Class Association, Durham Intersectional Feminism Society and Durham LGBT+ Association. The letter was followed by a protest consisting of over 300 students and a proposed rent strike to lower the university’s league table rankings.

Before the investigation, Prof Luckhurst issued an apology, admitting to labelling the walkout 'pathetic', the statement continued, “I was wrong to describe the students' action as pathetic and, I apologise unreservedly for doing so.”

However, students criticised the apology as the email also stated, “students had as much right to absent themselves from the speech as my guest had to make it.”

Earlier last week, the university stated the investigation had now concluded, and a “number of recommendations had been made.” Despite this, the university has refused to comment on or publish the findings.

The statement continues, “we need to first allow our internal process to take place and conclude before we are in a position to comment further.”

Claims that the investigation was to be hushed up follow Prof Tim Luckhurst’s quiet return to his role in early January.

Several students stated they had received little or no communication about the investigation or the recommendations amended as a result but that it is expected that Prof Luckhurst will not be present at the next formal.

A Durham University student who chose to remain anonymous said, 'It was a misjudgement at best to invite him in the first place, and that misjudgement was compounded by the behaviour of the college principle on the night of the speech. Then in terms of the investigation I think it's vital there's a transparent process and that those responsible for what happened are openly accountable'

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