Durham lecturers accused of stoking students in free speech furore

Top academics at Durham University are accused of whipping up mob of left-wing students attempting to oust head of college for defending Rod Liddle speech furore

  • Senior Durham University academics accused of whipping up Left-wing student mob
  • Left-wing students are trying to oust the head of a college amid a free-speech row
  • Professor Tim Luckhurst branded a walkout during a Rod Liddle speech by woke students ‘pathetic’
  • Rod Liddle gave a talk on December 3 covering trans issues, women’s rights and racism
  • Senior academics at Durham University were last night accused of whipping up a mob of Left-wing students attempting to oust the head of a college amid a free-speech row.

    Professor Tim Luckhurst, the principal of South College, was last week barred from public duties for five weeks and is being investigated after he criticised students who walked out when journalist Rod Liddle rose to speak at a formal dinner.

    The suspension of Prof Luckhurst, a former editor of The Scotsman, has raised new fears about the threat to free speech at UK universities posed by a minority of Left-wing activist students.

    Now, The MoS can reveal the heads of at least 13 of Durham’s 17 colleges, along with other professors and heads of departments, have thrown their weight behind those who protested at Mr Liddle’s speech. 

    Professor Tim Luckhurst (pictured), principal of Durham’s South College, branding a walkout by woke students ‘pathetic’

    Professor Tim Luckhurst (pictured), principal of Durham’s South College, branding a walkout by woke students ‘pathetic’ 

    Rod Liddle was invited by Professor Tim Luckhurst, an old friend and former newspaper editor who is now the College's Principal

    Rod Liddle was invited by Professor Tim Luckhurst, an old friend and former newspaper editor who is now the College’s Principal

    At least four academic departments have also backed the students.

    In emails sent to students last week – many of which used almost identical wording – academics deplored Mr Liddle’s supposed ‘intolerant and hurtful’ remarks and described the ‘upset caused’ as ‘deeply concerning’.

    Professor Carolyn Summerbell, principal of John Snow College, which neighbours South College, said: ‘I stand in solidarity with all those targeted in Rod Liddle’s speech and with those who exercised their freedoms by walking out of the formal [dinner]…

    ‘I condemn the verbal abuse of students in any and all contexts.’

    Professor Simon Forrest, principal at St Hild and St Bede College, said: ‘Like you, I find the upset caused by this event deeply concerning. I want you to know that I deplore the intolerant and hurtful remarks attributed to the speaker.’

    Dr Susan Frenk, principal of St Aidan’s College, urged students who have been ‘personally affected’ to ‘reach out to student support’. ‘The pain cannot be erased, but we can try to play our part in healing the wounds,’ she added.

    Mr Liddle began his speech on December 3 by joking that he was ‘disappointed’ not to see any sex workers that night – a reference to recent controversy over safety training provided by Durham to student sex workers. The speech also covered trans issues.

    One 21-year-old student who attended the dinner said that a table of about a dozen students walked out before Mr Liddle, a former editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, had said ‘anything of any substance’. ‘Then, over the course of the speech, after every point Rod made there would be a dribble of people going out. But the vast majority stayed and the vast majority gave him an ovation at the end.’ 

    The vast majority of students didn't know who he was. So they used mobile phones to search for 'Rod Liddle' via Google. Pictured: Durham students protest after Rod Liddle's speech

    The vast majority of students didn’t know who he was. So they used mobile phones to search for ‘Rod Liddle’ via Google. Pictured: Durham students protest after Rod Liddle’s speech

    Protesting youngsters carried flags and banners with messages such as 'sod Rod', 'proud to be pathetic' and 'no hate'

    Protesting youngsters carried flags and banners with messages such as ‘sod Rod’, ‘proud to be pathetic’ and ‘no hate’

    Prof Luckhurst further angered the students by describing those who walked out as ‘pathetic’, while his wife was filmed saying: ‘What are you frightened of, you silly people?’ Hundreds of students protested on campus last week and have threatened to stop paying rent.

    Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education select committee, accused the students of ‘a witch-hunt against a respected academic’: ‘I’ve got no problem with students demonstrating, as is their right, but trying to get Tim Luckhurst sacked is ridiculous.’

    Meanwhile, other supporters of Prof Luckhurst have highlighted how Durham University’s website carries a policy statement which trumpets that ‘freedom of expression is a fundamental right’. Toby Young, of the Free Speech Union, said: ‘The fact senior members of the University are whipping up a mob of censorious student activists against a colleague is shocking.

    ‘They appear not to have read Durham’s freedom of expression policy. Not only should the College Principals be upholding these values, they also have a legal duty to secure freedom of speech within the law on campus. Something has gone very wrong at Durham.’

    The MoS also understands that academics from other universities have emailed Prof Luckhurst their support and that a ‘silent majority’ of Durham students back him.

     

    Row ringleader of the student backlash against Rod Liddle’s speech at Durham University is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter who stood for the Labour Party 

    BY MICHAEL  POWELL FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY 

    One of the ringleaders of the student backlash against Rod Liddle’s speech at Durham University is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter who stood for the Labour Party at the local elections earlier this year.

    Sean Hannigan, 22, president of the Junior Common Room at South College, addressed 300 people at a protest on Wednesday, where he backed calls for students to stop paying rent.

    He said: ‘The only way that the university will listen is if it hits them financially. This country belongs to us, gay people and black people and every person who lives here.’ Borrowing a slogan from Mr Corbyn, the politics graduate said: ‘We need to stand up for this country and its rights and build a new country for the many, not the few.’

    Mr Hannigan was at the dinner at South College where Rod Liddle gave a talk on December 3, covering trans issues, women’s rights and racism.

    Sean Hannigan, 22, (pictured) is a ringleader of the backlash against Rod Liddle’s speech at Durham University

    Sean Hannigan, 22, (pictured) is a ringleader of the backlash against Rod Liddle’s speech at Durham University 

    The 'woke' mob had ramped up its campaign to oust Professor Luckhurst last night as seven societies accused him of 'gross misconduct'

    The ‘woke’ mob had ramped up its campaign to oust Professor Luckhurst last night as seven societies accused him of ‘gross misconduct’

    Mr Hannigan is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter who stood for the Labour Party at the local elections this year

    Mr Hannigan is a Jeremy Corbyn supporter who stood for the Labour Party at the local elections this year

    The student gave his own speech afterwards, condemning Mr Liddle’s remarks, which was greeted by cheers and applause from student attendees, according to the Palatinate student newspaper.

    Mr Hannigan spent a month working as an intern in the parliamentary office of then Shadow Transport Minister Matt Rodda in 2019 and has ambitions to become a Labour MP. He stood unsuccessfully for Labour in local elections for Oxfordshire County Council in May, winning just 577 votes.

    He posted on Instagram: ‘The Labour Party, particularly since Corbyn, has provided people like me with an alternative – and an end to austerity.’

    Seun Twins, the left-wing student leader behind a campaign to oust a Durham University lecturer, has previously described Jeremy Corbyn as 'the white king' and suggested Tories should be 'dealt with'

    Seun Twins, the left-wing student leader behind a campaign to oust a Durham University lecturer, has previously described Jeremy Corbyn as ‘the white king’ and suggested Tories should be ‘dealt with’

    The Free Speech Union slammed the five officers who penned a rambling statement in a bid to oust South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst

    The Free Speech Union slammed the five officers who penned a rambling statement in a bid to oust South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst

    The Free Speech Union slammed the five officers (pictured, two of them) who penned a rambling statement in a bid to oust South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst

    Durham Students' Union has been blasted for demanding a leading academic resign after he invited journalist Rod Liddle to talk at a dinner party

    Durham Students' Union has been blasted for demanding a leading academic resign after he invited journalist Rod Liddle to talk at a dinner party

    Durham Students’ Union (pictured, two of its five officers) has been blasted for demanding a leading academic resign after he invited journalist Rod Liddle to talk at a dinner party

    Seun Twins, Jack Ballingham, Jonah Graham, Declan Merrington and Charlie Procter (pictured) claimed hosting one of the UK's best known writers was an 'abuse of power'

    Seun Twins, Jack Ballingham, Jonah Graham, Declan Merrington and Charlie Procter (pictured) claimed hosting one of the UK’s best known writers was an ‘abuse of power’

    Seun Twins, Jack Ballingham, Jonah Graham, Declan Merrington and Charlie Procter claimed hosting one of the UK's best known writers (pictured) was an 'abuse of power'

    The five officers penned a rambling statement in a bid to oust South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst (pictured)

    Seun Twins, Jack Ballingham, Jonah Graham, Declan Merrington and Charlie Procter claimed hosting one of the UK’s best known writers (left) was an ‘abuse of power’. Right: Prof Luckhurst

    He said ‘families like mine have suffered’ under austerity. His family home is a £600,000 semi-detached house in the village of Crowmarsh Gifford near Henley-on-Thames.

    Other hard-Left campaigners are demanding the removal of Professor Tim Luckhurst, the principal of South College, who has been suspended after he criticised students for walking out of Mr Liddle’s talk.

    Durham students’ union president Seun Twins, who called for the professor to be sacked and said his position was ‘untenable’, has described Mr Corbyn as ‘the white king’ and suggested that Tories should be ‘dealt with’.

    What did Rod Liddle say in his speech at the University of Durham?

    Rod Liddle’s speech at the University of Durham has not been reported in full, but the contents of the speech have been reported by the university’s student newspaper, Palatinate.

    According to the newspaper, Liddle opened his Friday speech saying he was disappointed not to see any sex workers at the event.

    This was in reference to recent controversy surrounding safety training provided by Durham University to student sex workers. 

    Liddle then claimed that the left was going 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’, according to the paper.

    He continued, on a different topic, saying: ‘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 opined about the UK’s forced adoption policy between 1945 and 1975.

    He said that attitudes now put woman, not children, first, adding that anger about the policy did not take into account the child’s mental health and economic situation enough.

    He closed his speech with a message to the event’s attendees about the importance of listening to and doubting other people’s opinions. 

    Palatinate reported a dozen students walked out before the speech began and several more during it.

    At the end, a very small number are reported to have applauded the speaker, and while it is protocol to rise for the high table as it leaves, nearly all students remaining in the hall stayed seated. Some shouted ‘disgusting’ and ‘racist’ at Liddle as he left the room.

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    An entire generation are puzzled by the idea that anyone has the right to say things they don’t agree with, writes PETER HITCHENS 

    BY PETER HITCHENS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY 

    Free speech is already dead in Britain. It is just that the chattering classes have not realised it yet. Once again we have a clear case of a mob successfully demanding that limits should be placed on what can be said.

    Durham’s Professor Tim Luckhurst has had to apologise, because he called his own students ‘pathetic’ for their conformism. Some of them had walked out after a speech at Durham’s South College by the provocative writer Rod Liddle.

    You might have thought ‘pathetic’ was a mild rebuke to such behaviour, in a university supposedly dedicated to the open-minded search for knowledge. But no. This one word was enough to trigger a parade of noisy outrage and – more importantly – to send the university authorities running for cover. Did you think they would stand up for him?

    There is still a very limited liberty to say a few nonconformist things in some newspapers and magazines, and perhaps in some universities and schools. It is also possible on one or two smaller low-audience broadcasting stations and bits of the internet.

    I am – for the moment – one of the luckier ones. But I do not expect it to last for ever. I can see that, for most people, true free speech has ceased to exist. 

    Protesters (pictured) congregated outside South College clutching Black Lives Matter placards and chanting 'Hey, hey, ho, ho, Tim Luckhurst has got to go!'

    Protesters (pictured) congregated outside South College clutching Black Lives Matter placards and chanting ‘Hey, hey, ho, ho, Tim Luckhurst has got to go!’

    Durham University students stand with their banners as they stage a protest at South College

    Durham University students stand with their banners as they stage a protest at South College

    They claimed he promoted 'a culture of harm and hate' by inviting Mr Liddle to give his speech

    They claimed he promoted ‘a culture of harm and hate’ by inviting Mr Liddle to give his speech

    Step outside the borders of acceptable thought in a school or a workplace and you can very quickly find yourself being denounced and in serious trouble.

    On some issues, such as the transgender controversy, it is virtually impossible to say anything without attracting the attention of the Thought Police.

    Fascinatingly, the small group who do speak out on this are mostly Left-wing radical feminists. Actual conservatives would never dare, and wisely hide behind Julie Bindel and J. K. Rowling.

    In workplaces, from fire stations to schools, everything must conform with ‘Equality and Diversity’. This is in fact the law of the land. Where trade unions still exist, they support the new speech codes and will not defend you. So most people wisely do not risk it.

    A large number of opinions have now been classified broadly as ‘Fascist’. This word does not mean ‘supporter of Fascism’. George Orwell pointed out more than 70 years ago that ‘The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable” ’.

    But now it has gone further than that. It is, amusingly, not applied to actual Fascists.

    It is very telling that the word ‘Fascist’ was not aimed at Max Mosley, the prominent critic of British newspapers, by the British Left. This was despite the fact that Mr Mosley, by his own choice, once went brawling on behalf of his father Sir Oswald, a self-proclaimed Fascist. As a young man he also painted Fascist symbols on walls.

    Worst of all, he was exposed as the publisher of a leaflet seething with racial bigotry, at an age when he could and should have known better. 

    A small group of Left-wing students staged a protest at South College calling for what they deem a ‘safer, more inclusive’ campus

    They claimed it breached the Equality Act and demanded 'disciplinary regulations' be brought to bear on the professor - who has been gagged from commenting

    They claimed it breached the Equality Act and demanded ‘disciplinary regulations’ be brought to bear on the professor – who has been gagged from commenting








    But this did not cost him his Left-wing defenders. This was because they enjoyed his attacks on Fleet Street newspapers too much. They rightly see the surviving national newspapers as one of the last major forces of democratic conservatism in the country, and hope to bring them down.

    Laughably, while the Left will not call Max Mosley a Fascist, many of them would certainly use it of me. But it is freely applied to people who oppose Fascism.

    Among millions, the idea that you can defend someone’s right to say something you disagree with is now puzzling. They have no idea why anyone would do that. For them, the debate is over, they have won, and those who oppose them are stupid and wrong.

    The whole concept of tolerance has almost died in this generation, as far as I can see.

    It is fascinating to note that the holders of these dominant opinions are already starting to joke about actually killing those who disagree with them. I mistrust such jokes, as I have known plenty of people who have dressed up their nastiest thoughts and desires as jests.

    These new totalitarians no doubt deeply oppose the death penalty for murder. Yet in my own home town, Oxford, I have seen people walking around wearing T-shirts carrying the words A Platform For Fascists and a picture of a guillotine, the instrument by which the radical French Revolutionaries murdered thousands of their conservative opponents after kangaroo trials. You can buy these witty garments for a bargain £12.84 on the internet.

    By Monday, with the affair generating national headlines, Prof Luckhurst had been suspended from public roles and removed from a forthcoming fundraising trip to the U.S. Pictured:  A female student holds a placard at the protest

    An open letter from students claiming to be 'distressed' and 'emotional' due to Liddle's remarks garnered more than 1,000 online signatures. Pictured: A Durham student at the protest

    By Monday, with the affair generating national headlines, Prof Luckhurst had been suspended from public roles and removed from a forthcoming fundraising trip to the U.S. Pictured:  Two women at the protests

    A small number of student activists marched on South College yesterday in their latest attempt to get the professor sacked

    A small number of student activists marched on South College yesterday in their latest attempt to get the professor sacked

    The activists gathered on a green with placards reading 'mansplain, manipulate, manwife' and 'we're queer, we're here'

    The activists gathered on a green with placards reading ‘mansplain, manipulate, manwife’ and ‘we’re queer, we’re here’

    So while I admire the efforts of such people as Toby Young, with his Free Speech Union (to which I belong) to fight against this new dark age, I think the cause is lost.

    A few years ago I was given a warning of what is coming. I went to speak to a meeting at Balliol College in Oxford, about a favourite subject – the foolish destruction of state grammar schools. As I neared the college, the organisers intercepted me, to warn I was the object of a protest.

    The demonstrators awaited me, carrying hand-made placards declaring ‘History will forget you’, ‘Stop Platforming Hate’, and ‘Welcome to our Heresy Hunt’.

    Rather originally, they had decided to object to me in total silence, and they walked backwards in front of me holding the placards and trying to look hostile.

    When I saw one of them walking backwards into a bush, I tried to warn her, but she would not listen to my Fascist advice and duly got badly mixed up in the plant.

    Trying not to laugh, I accepted a leaflet from one of them, in which I was denounced in detail for many, many offences against political correctness over many years. It was entitled The Words Of Peter Hitchens – A Brief Guide To The Bigotry And Vanity Of Peter Hitchens. The fascinating thing about it was that it was all very nearly true. By using slanted reported speech and partial quotation, it managed to suggest that I was an even more horrible person than I no doubt am. Most of all, it gave the impression I am motivated by hatred of people rather than by dislike of ideas and policies.

    And this is the basis of what will eventually happen to everyone like me. It was the indictment I will face at my show trial, which will come if I live long enough. In a few years the sort of people who took part in that demonstration will be police officers, lawyers, civil servants and, of course, BBC journalists.

    Nonsense, you will say. Free speech may be a bit tattered in this country, but dissenters will never be put on trial, let alone punished for what they have said. But my opponents genuinely think I have spread hate and so done actual damage to vulnerable human beings. They do not view my words as expressions of opinion but as incitement to discrimination against certain people, and as ‘hate speech’ intended to harm.

    They also view my doubts about the theory of man-made global warming as ‘denial’ of a fact which they regard as proven. To them, this is little short of sabotage of efforts to combat this peril.

    All these positions are modern variations of the totalitarian states which grew up between the two world wars of the 20th Century.

    All of them believed that they owned the truth, that they were profoundly good and that those who got in their way were therefore evil as well as wrong.

    Footage emerged of the professor and his wife Dorothy talking to 'woke' students who stormed out of the speech on Friday night

    Footage emerged of the professor and his wife Dorothy talking to ‘woke’ students who stormed out of the speech on Friday night








    In Germany, Italy and Russia, this came about through crude seizures of power backed by the threat of street violence. In Spain it followed a barbaric civil war.

    Here, in the cleverest revolution in human history, it has come about through a peaceful, often boring and very slow seizure of power over the mind. Do you know what your children are being taught at school about global warming, about sex and marriage, about immigration, about history? Of course you don’t, though some of my readers report that their children received dirty looks from teachers when they revealed that The Mail on Sunday was delivered to their home.

    You have assumed that, for them, school is like what you experienced. It is not. Nor is university, where once again one set of ideas is reinforced, over and over again by teachers, books and also by the most powerful clubs and societies on campus.

    How we have laughed over the past 30 years at the politicisation of BBC entertainment, in which even Agatha Christie mysteries, Doctor Who and Call The Midwife are used to spread a political message.

    Professor Luckhurst tried to calm the students who gawped at him as he educated them on free speech at universities

    Professor Luckhurst tried to calm the students who gawped at him as he educated them on free speech at universities

    How we chuckled at ‘Loony Left’ Labour councils of the 1980s, with their busts of Lenin and Red Flags in the town hall, their courting of Sinn Fein and their agenda of sexual liberation.

    Yet, as we laughed, it continued and grew more intense. Ken Livingstone may be a marginal figure now, but what does that matter when his policies are today embraced by the Conservative Party, as they are?

    And despite repeated claims that the problem of political conformity on campuses is being tackled, the case of Tim Luckhurst shows that the danger to free speech is stronger, not weaker.

    Who knows if he will even keep his job? Will he perhaps be forced to wear a dunce’s cap and paraded round the university with his head bowed and a placard round his neck denouncing his crimes? If this happened, more people would at least grasp what was going on.

    Our course begins to resemble the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, when legions of ignorant, indoctrinated Red Guards pulled down everything they did not understand and cleared the way for a new, more intolerant, narrower world.

    It is worse than you think and, as I keep telling you, it is so big that you cannot believe its scale, and that is why most people cannot see it until it is far too late.