To offer a little background on the subject of this article, here is a summary of the events of Friday 3rd December. As many of us have heard, the South College principal Tim Luckhurst invited journalist Rod Liddle to join himself and his wife, Dorothy Luckhurst, at the college’s Christmas Formal. Students were not notified of Liddle’s attendance at the formal prior to the evening, and at the end of the formal Liddle was invited to give a speech. An impressive speech Liddle did give, opening with a joke about sex workers, and subsequently managing to cover such festive topics as classism, racism, pro-colonialism, misogyny, and transphobia. Unsurprisingly, many attendees of the formal had chosen to leave the venue during Liddle’s speech, with some departing upon Googling Liddle’s astonishing background of discriminatory behaviour and hate speech.
Torment suffered by students of South College did not end there, however. As some began to leave their tables, their college principal called them “pathetic” and “inadequate”, going so far as to state that students “shouldn’t be at university”. When the high table finally left the venue, Tim and Dorothy continued to harass students in the foyer, who had earlier left the formal, addressing them with more hate speech regarding their sexual orientation, race, and gender identity, amongst other things. In retaliation against the vile behaviour exhibited by these senior administrative staff in the University, students of South College decided to stand in protest on 8th December.
Her Campus attended the protest in support, and were able to discuss the topic with some of the organisers. The organisers acknowledged that social media support does not necessarily translate directly into physical support and were all prepared for a rather small turn out. As the clock ticked nearer to the protest’s opening remarks, however, a considerable crowd had gathered outside accommodation blocks at South College. Despite the horrendous nature of the crimes committed at the formal, the atmosphere at the protest was one of homeliness and solidarity. With pride flags flying high, fears of backlash against the minority groups attacked by Tim Luckhurst, Dorothy Luckhurst, and Liddle that Friday night seemed to have vanished as organisers blasted Lily Allen’s ‘F*ck You’ (amongst many other iconic gay anthems) on speakers around the college.
Liddle, in his 4-minute speech given at the formal (a bewilderingly small space to fit such vast amount of hateful content), stated that “if you have a penis and testicles, you are a man”. Bravely countering this blatantly transphobic remark, Georgia Malkin stated in her speech during the protest, “a penis and testicles do not a man make, a fact which the World Health Organisation has stated on their webpage about gender”. Exposing the hollow scientific grounding on which Liddle based his statement, Georgia further criticised Liddle’s speech and behaviour, stating that his “[disagreement] with science is not a controversial opinion, it’s a falsehood.” That Liddle felt it appropriate and just to express such “opinion” as fact, at a Christmas formal, no less, is incomprehensible, a sentiment reiterated over and over again by speakers throughout the protest.
Throughout the day of the protest, more speeches discussed the falsity of Liddle’s claims, and the damage that such a revolting speech had done, at the time and place he chose to give it. Particularly of notice are speakers’ responses to the sexist remarks made by Liddle during the Christmas formal. One of the representatives for Durham UCU questioned the rationality behind Liddle’s invitation even after announcing “that he was coming [to Durham] in a column that sexualised and belittled female students”. Many speakers argued against Liddle’s statement that children of single mothers should be taken by the state, stating with pride that “there is no shame in being raised” as such.
As the content of Liddle’s speech was circulated in a video last week amongst the student body, it can be assumed that whatever invalidation, degradation, and shame felt by South students at the formal are feelings which resonated with many others at Durham. As much as the University would like to deny the existence of the minority groups attacked by Liddle, we do exist, and “pain” has been caused.
For me personally, participating in the protest has made me realise that minority groups of Durham University will not take such an attack lying down, not anymore. Seeing how different communities gathered together against the atrocious language of Liddle and the Luckhursts has renewed my hope in students and the power they have. It is clear that we will not allow the crimes committed against us to pass by silently. As the organisers warned in the closing remarks to the protest, “Do not forget our aims, do not forget the students of South and the wider Durham University community.”For more information on the cause, please visit: https://www.instagram.com/southstudentprotest/