The spirit of the Stepford students is back with a vengeance at our top universities, judging by the hysteria which greeted Rod Liddle’s remarks at Durham. Having organised both a walk out and a protest in response to Rod’s after-dinner speech, angry undergraduates have now organised an open letter, which Mr S has just received. As Professor Tim Luckhurst, the college principal who invited Rod, fights for his job amidst a furious backlash, the militant mob smell blood and are now using the incident to demand further concessions from the university.
Co-signed by the university’s junior common presidents – the student satraps of each Durham college – it claims that ‘colleges are students’ homes and students must be able to take an active role in leading their own communities.’ This includes, apparently, deciding who gets to sit at high table in a 200 seat dining hall.
‘Freedom of speech is not to be confused with questioning the rights of minorities’ it continues, insisting that the ongoing university investigation considers the ‘policies in place across colleges that allowed this incident to occur.’ In future ’students must be given an active role in core decision-making within their college community, with clear means of representation defined in university policy.’
So that means the vetting of guests and a student veto on unpalatable columnists in future. All a Liddle bit sinister, no? Mr S will leave his readers to decide, by taking a look at the full letter below:
The Committee of the JCR Presidents has met this week with key stakeholders regarding the events at South College. After speaking to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges & SE), Jeremy Cook, about the steps the University is now taking we would like to address some issues and outline how our University can go forward.
Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to turn up to someone’s home, uninvited, and demand the right to be heard. The students of South College did not invite Rod Liddle. Colleges are students’ homes and students must be able to take an active role in leading their own communities.
Had the President of South College, Sean Hannigan, not taken it upon himself to respond with an impromptu reply that evening there would have been no student voice nor right of reply. As the recognised representative of the students present, he engaged respectfully with the speaker and demonstrated how his alleged arguments were fallacious. These were sensitive topics, raised because they would create division, at a Christmas dinner that should’ve been about communal dining, celebration, and Mariah Carey.
Gatekeeping who is and who is not a member of a minority is a dangerous game to play. Freedom of speech is not to be confused with questioning the rights of minorities. If you deny one’s status as a minority, you risk denying them their associated rights, for how could someone who does not exist be entitled to rights?
The University is now rightfully conducting an investigation into the Principal of South College. We have sought assurances from the Pro-Vice-Chancellor that this investigation will be transparent and will be conducted in a timely fashion. Students deserve a thorough examination of not just the events at South College but also the policies in place across colleges that allowed this incident to occur. Students must be given an active role in core decision-making within their college community, with clear means of representation defined in university policy. We look forward to working with the University on these developments to ensure that colleges are welcoming environments for all students.
If you have been personally affected by the events of the past week then please reach out to your college’s student support staff, your welfare officers, and any relevant SU associations for support.
Sean Hannigan, President of South College
Alfie Whillis, President of the Society, St Cuthbert’s Society
Joe McGarry, JCR President, St Aidan’s College
Charles Lawrence, JCR President, Stephenson College
Megan Titterington, JCR President, St Mary’s College
Sian Bell, Senior Student, University College
Alice Butler, SJCR President, St John’s College
Hala Heenan, JCR President, St Chad’s College
Gabe Allason, JCR President, Collingwood College
Alannah Life, JCR President, Trevelyan College
Hannah Richards, JCR President, Grey College
Lydia Leach, JCR President, John Snow College
Dom Cornfield, Senior Man, Hatfield College
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