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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Durham University accused of ‘cover-up’ over review of guest speakers

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urham University will undertake a review into its policies for inviting external speakers, following a row over a speech by Rod Liddle at a dinner last year.

Student protesters said the university is seeking a “systemic cover-up” of the controversy, arguing it has failed to support marginalised students throughout.

In December last year, students walked out of the dinner at South College during the columnist’s speech.

According to a report from student newspaper Palatinate, during his after-dinner speech Mr 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.”

We should ensure that as an educational institution we allow our students opportunities to openly debate so that ideas and views can be heard and contested respectfully

At the time, South College principal Professor Tim Luckhurst was criticised for calling students “pathetic” for walking out, even though most were unaware that Mr Liddle would be speaking when they chose to attend.

Prof Luckhurst stepped back from his duties, but has since resumed them at the start of the academic term.

In January, the university refused to comment on the result of its investigation into the row, and would only say that it would be “inappropriate to comment on what remains a confidential and ongoing process”.

But on Thursday, Durham released a statement saying it will now review its processes for engaging with external speakers, adding that it does not intend “to exclude any speakers from our campus”.

Durham confirmed that it would not be publishing details of Prof Luckhurst’s involvement in the incident, but said that as a university it “must constantly strive to establish a culture which is underpinned by respect and by our values” and that this included “taking pride” in how ideas were discussed and debated, “including those that we may find challenging”.

“We should ensure that as an educational institution we allow our students opportunities to openly debate so that ideas and views can be heard and contested respectfully,” the statement added.

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