The masters of Durham University have reacted with Olympian swiftness to the hysteria which greeted Rod Liddle’s dinner speech at South College on Friday night. Students professed themselves to be ‘literally shaking’ at The Spectator columnist’s comments on sex and gender issues — poor darlings. The adults in and around campus, meanwhile, were equally eager to vent their sense of horror. The local Labour society insisted that 'Our university doesn’t owe hate a platform’ and the Students’ Union demanding the resignation of the College Principal Tim Luckhurst.
And the Durham dons are at pains to show such concerns are taken seriously, issuing thumping public statements disassociating the university from such dreadful remarks and now even launching a full inquiry into the ‘incident’. Last night Professor Antony Long – Durham’s Acting Vice Chancellor and the most senior administrator in the university management – took the unusual step of emailing all students to ‘assure you that the University categorically does not agree with views expressed by the external speaker at this occasion.’ Highlighted in bold was the following passage:
“We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the events on Friday as a matter of urgency and have taken immediate steps to launch an investigation which will follow our established processes. We will report more on this soonest.
Long wrote that ‘the entirety of the event and some surrounding circumstances have caused significant upset for our students and staff, and other members of our University community’ adding that ‘I am most concerned, as are my UEC (University Executive Committee) colleagues, at reports that some behaviours exhibited at the occasion may have fallen short of those that we expect.’ Good luck to Principal Tim Luckhurst, who was chastised by some of his students for labelling those walking-out as 'pathetic.'
Long’s missive triggered a flurry of self-righteous condemnation from other Rod-fearing folk at the university. Hannah Richards, the President of Grey College’s Junior College Room, emailed round to ‘commend the bravery of those who chose to walk out’, claiming that Rod’s comments amounted to ‘hate speech and discrimination’ and insisting on ‘appropriate action.’ She added that: ‘the JCR is entirely committed to ensuring that similar incidents never happen at Grey and that all students feel safe, welcome and included.’ Bang goes Steerpike’s invite to that Christmas party.
Meanwhile Dr Peter Swift, the acting master of Grey College, referred his students to welfare teams and wrote that: ‘myself and the other staff here at Grey College find the upset caused by this event deeply concerning.’ Declining to comment on the speech while it is being investigated, Dr Swift magnanimously added that ‘I also deplore the intolerant and hurtful remarks attributed to the speaker’ – just in case there was any doubt.