Uni students stage protest after Spectator’s Rod Liddle goes on ‘transphobic’ penis rant on campus
Students at Durham University walked out of a Christmas formal dinner upon learning that Rod Liddle had been invited to speak as a guest of the college principal.
Professor Tim Luckhurst, principal of Durham University’s South College, later defended Liddle as a “humorist” after the Spectator associate editor made a speech on 3 December that included “racism and transphobia”.
During his after-dinner speech at South College, Liddle said that when it comes to gender, the left is against “science or pure facts”, adding: “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.”
The Sunday Times columnist, who said in 2018 that he is “identifying as a young, Black, trans chihuahua”, went on to tell Durham students that colonialism “is not remotely the major cause of Africa’s problems” and that the “educational underachievement” of Black students is “nothing to do with institutional or structural racism”, according to student newspaper Palatinate.
Liddle’s invite was reportedly known to the university prior to his attending the event but not to students, who organised a walkout during the dinner in response to learning that he would be speaking. His fee for an after-dinner speech is between £3,000 and £5,000, according to his agent.
More than a dozen students left before he spoke and several more walked out during his speech.
Liddle’s long rap sheet includes infamously posing the question, in 2003, “Should it really be a crime to look at child pornography?” and writing an article saying he couldn’t be a teacher because he could “not remotely conceive of not trying to shag the kids”.
Students reportedly shouted “disgusting” and “racist” at Liddle as he left the venue, and a pro-trans poster was later stuck onto the principal’s door that evening.
South College principal professor Tim Luckhurst, a longtime friend and colleague of Liddle’s, had invited him to make the after-dinner speech at the formal Christmas dinner.
In videos shared on social media, Luckhurst can be heard defending Liddle to students after his speech by saying “Rod is a humorist”.
(3, part 1) pic.twitter.com/fvht3LpmNZ
— Redd_Duskedd (@RDuskedd) December 4, 2021
Luckhurst’s wife has also been identified in videos shared on social media, in which she mocks students, calling them “arses” and saying: “What are you frightened of, you silly people… what are you frightened of?”
If I get this correctly, this is the wife of the principal of a college at Durham university vs. students objecting to an unannounced speech by Rod Liddle where he made a number of racist and transphobic comments. https://t.co/S4v4HGySa1
— alexandre afonso (@alexandreafonso) December 6, 2021
Durham University students call Rod Liddle ‘racist and transphobic’
Student societies at Durham University responding to the incident called Rod Liddle’s speech “racist and transphobic”.
“We are horrified to hear the stories coming out about the formal at South College involving Rod Liddle and Tim Luckhurst,” said Durham’s working class students association (Durham WCSA) on Twitter on 4 December. “Allowing Rod Liddle a platform to enable his transphobia and racism is beyond inappropriate.”
Durham WCSA added that freedom of speech cannot be used to defend transphobia and racism, especially on campus “where students are supposed to feel safe”. The WCSA called on the university to investigate.
We are horrified to hear the stories coming out about the formal at South College involving Rod Liddle and Tim Luckhurst.
Allowing Rod Liddle a platform to enable his transphobia and racism is beyond inappropriate.
— Durham WCSA (@DurhamWCSA) December 4, 2021
Durham University’s Intersectional Feminist Society responded with an open letter, which has been signed by more than 1,000 students and former students and is backed by the university’s LGBT+ association and Labour Club, calling his invite to speak “unacceptable” and saying his speech contained “numerous transphobic, sexist, racist and classist remarks”.
The open letter draws attention to Liddle’s history of mocking trans people and making “problematic” remarks about race and culture, before sharing testimonies from students who were present during his speech and calling for a formal apology from Luckhurst, who called the student walkout “pathetic”.
“The disrespectful response to students walking out or asking for an apology by the principal and his wife”, the letter continues, “was unprofessional in any environment, especially considering his role as principal”.
“While we understand the importance of free speech and the value of academic speech, we firmly believe that this incident can be placed in the realm of hate speech. Such speech should not be tolerated in Durham University.”
A peaceful protest on campus is reportedly planned for later this week.
Durham University launches investigation into Spectator journalist’s invite
Principal Tim Luckhurst, who was filmed defending Rod Liddle and calling students “arses”, later apologised, telling Palatinate that his “intention is never to offend”.
“Sincere commitment to freedom of speech is inevitably challenging,” Luckhurst said. “It requires us to consider ideas with which we may disagree instinctively. I regard that as a crucial part of the excellent education on offer here at Durham.
“My intention is never to offend. I hope to stimulate robust discussion and debate. I regret any offence that has arisen, but I fear we have no right not to be offended. As George Orwell noted, ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people things they do not want to hear.'”
The university has confirmed that an “investigation is underway” into the incident. “The university categorically does not agree with the comments reported from a speech given by an external speaker at this occasion, and is concerned at reports that the behaviours exhibited at the occasion fall short of those that we expect,” it said in a statement.
“We are looking into this as a matter of urgency, and an investigation into the circumstances is now underway.”
This thread details the events of last night from a student who was present. Why were students exposed to rampant racism and transphobia from a public figure who is renowned for his outright hatred of marginalised groups? https://t.co/X55IOJHgHC
— Katie Anne Tobin 🍄🍂 (@KatieAnneTobin) December 4, 2021
PinkNews has contacted Rod Liddle’s representatives for comment.