The University of Durham has boasted many distinguished students over the years: Sir Harold Evans, Justin Welby, Andrew Strauss and even the worst 007, George Lazenby. But it seems the current crop of angry undergraduates are not so keen on old-fashioned notions of argument and debate. For Friday night saw the good neophytes of South College attempt to cancel a guest at their Christmas formal, a man quite well-known to Mr S: none other than The Spectator’s own Rod Liddle.
Steerpike is yet to get Rod’s account of the incident but plenty has been said already by the protagonists in this early Christmas pantomime. Students walked out before his speech at the meal and continued to do so throughout his five-minute contribution, with most declining to stand as the guests on high table walked out afterwards, as tradition dictates. Among the offending lines which sparked the wrath of Durham’s finest include The Spectator columnist joking that he was disappointed not to see any sex workers – a reference to the recent controversy over safety training provided by the university to undergraduates working in this industry.
One of the Rod-fearing folk involved has now composed a lengthy Twitter thread, declaring that the night was a betrayal of South College’s motto ‘liberty, equality and global citizenship’ as ‘all it takes is a Google search to see how much of an awful person this man is.’ They declared themselves ‘absolutely livid, literally shaking’ at Rod’s comments about sex and gender issues, with the self-proclaimed Durham’s Working Class Students’ Association now demanding an investigation and the local Labour society insisting that ‘Our university doesn’t owe hate a platform.’
To his credit, the college’s Principal, Professor Tim Luckhurst, disagreed, telling his charges that ‘At South College, we value freedom of speech’ and labelling those walking-out as ‘pathetic.’ Still, plenty of material for Rod to use for his next column, thanks to the good students of Durham.
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