Rod Liddle reveals heckling Durham University student who branded him ‘disgusting’ was left confused and speechless after he tried to engage him in a ‘reasonable debate’ about transgender issues

  • Rod Liddle revealed a university student heckled him and called him ‘disgusting’ 
  • Said student was ‘left speechless’ after an attempt at ‘reasonable debate’
  • Added student seemed like he was ‘from a cult’ and because he said Liddle’s views were ‘hate speech’ 

Rod Liddle has revealed a university student who heckled him and called him ‘disgusting’  after he  gave a speech at Durham University was ‘left speechless’ when the controversial columnist tried to engage him in debate. 

Liddle, 61, who is associate editor of The Spectator magazine, faced backlash last week after student groups, ranging from Durham’s Working Class Students’ Association to the Intersectional Feminism Society issued statements claiming members had been ‘insulted,’ ‘violated’ and ‘humiliated’ by having to listen to Liddle’s ‘transphobia and racism’ after he was invited to speak to students. 

Writing in a piece for the Spectator today, Liddle wrote: ‘My abiding memory of this fairly appalling year is of the face of the young student at Durham University who shouted “Disgusting!” at me as I left the main college building’. 

The writer explained that he went back into the building to ask him what was disgusting about him in ‘an affable manner’, to which the student replied: ‘Your views’ the the heckler described as ‘hate speech’.

Liddle, 61, who is associate editor of The Spectator magazine, faced backlash last week after student groups, ranging from Durham’s Working Class Students’ Association to the Intersectional Feminism Society issued statements claiming members had been ‘insulted,’ ‘violated’ and ‘humiliated’ by having to listen to Liddle’s ‘transphobia and racism’ after he was invited to speak to students.

Liddle – who in  2014 he was censured by the Independent Press Standards Organisation for making a crude joke about a blind transgender parliamentary candidate – said that he told the student he wants trans people to be able to enjoy lives without fear or discrimination, but he ‘doesn’t believe a man who transitions into a woman is actually a woman’.  

Liddle claims he then told the student: ‘We have a difference of opinion. And we can talk about it as we are now, amenably. But my opinion is scarcely one of hatred, is it? It is hardly disgusting?’

‘To this he had no answer. His face was a mask of confusion. He was confused not by my terfist position on transgenderism, which he must have heard many times before, but by the fact that he was debating, reasonably, with somebody who was the fount of all known evil. It simply did not compute. 

‘He began to withdraw from the discussion, still looking perplexed. Nearby, one of his allies, a female student, screamed: ‘You think all Muslims are savages!’ At which point I left. It had been like talking to someone from a cult,’ he wrote.

Students staged a protest at Durham calling for what they deem a ‘safer, more inclusive’ campus after Liddle’s speech

Liddle has previously apologised for using the phrase ‘black savages’ in an article – and has also written posts for the Spectator titled: ‘a quick update on what the Muslim savages are up to’. 

In the speech given last week he discussed trans rights and race,  adding: ‘It is fairly easily proven that colonialism is not remotely the major cause of Africa’s problems, just as it is very easy to prove that the educational underachievement of British people of Caribbean descent or African Americans is nothing to do with institutional or structural racism’.

The speech caused Durham students to write an open letter from students claiming to be ‘distressed’ and ’emotional’ due to Liddle’s remarks garnered more than 1,000 online signatures. It cited several undergraduates. ‘Durham is not a safe space for LGBT individuals such as myself,’ said one. ‘If there is no apology or repercussions, I cannot see myself remaining here.’

Around 200 students gathered at Durham University to protest about the row that blew up following a speech by writer Rod Liddle at an end of year event

Professor Tim Luckhurst, principal of South College, has been barred from duties after inviting Liddle, associate editor of The Spectator, to give a speech.

But students say they want him to resign if he does not apologise for ‘platforming a bigot’ without warning them.

They plan to withhold annual fees of £8,000 in college accommodation after claiming Liddle is ‘racist and transphobic’, which he denies.

Protest leader Sean Hannigan, 22, said: ‘The only way that the university will listen is if it hits them financially.’ 

Durham SU launches bid to oust leading academic from his job after ‘woke’ students stormed out of a speech because they were ‘frightened’ of journalist’s words

The statement in full:

‘The Principal of South College has insulted and humiliated the student members of the College. Tim Luckhurst, the former editor of a national newspaper, knew exactly what he was doing when he hijacked a Christmas party and allowed his personal friend to spout vile propaganda he knew would cause division. 

‘His shameful attempt to excuse this pantomime by pretending it was for the benefit of students’ education is disgraceful. He has failed in his duty of care as Principal to South College students, and as a leader in our University community.

Inviting your friend to deliberatively provoke and shock students in their own home is a violation of their community. 

‘South students who were enjoying their Christmas celebrations were compromised by their Principal, who prioritised his own political agenda over their interests. 

‘Attempts to spin this act as a progressive strike for ‘education’ is an insult to every student and actual academic at Durham. This is hazing, pure and simple; a straightforward abuse of power, which Luckhurst knew would provoke those who refused to silently submit to his theatrical brand of bullying to stand up, and face his insults. 

‘We fully stand by our students who exercised their freedom of speech rights to leave this sorry excuse for an ‘education’. We are also grateful to the very many academics at Durham, and beyond, who are calling out this attempt to corrupt their professional reputation for selfish reasons.

The Principal’s attempts to frame his calculated behaviour within the freedom of speech discourse is disingenuous, and does a disservice to those genuinely fighting threats to academic freedom across the world. 

‘We will challenge the Acting Vice-Chancellor on how it could ever be procedurally correct for a Principal to take it upon himself to ruin a Christmas party because his ‘right’ to ‘educate’ students was more important than their right to just enjoy their dinner, with friends, in their home. The students at South College deserve a proper apology, not just self-aggrandising quotes from Orwell.

‘We must also acknowledge the, at best inappropriate and at worst antagonistic, behaviour by the Principal’s wife. Guests in our community are expected to respect our community. Our Colleges are not battlegrounds for childish belittlement; they are learning communities, and respect is fundamental to learning.

‘We have read a lot about the Principal’s ‘rights’ over the weekend. We have seen little recognition of his responsibilities. We ask that our community therefore focuses not on the distraction he has invited, but rather on the standards we should expect of a College Principal compared to the behaviour we have seen. Watch the videos of Friday night. 

‘Read the testimony of students who were present and the statements of our College representatives and SU Associations. This is not the behaviour of a man we want educating, leading and supporting our students.

Durham’s problematic culture is endemic. This is not an isolated event, but a result of a longstanding failure to properly address unacceptable behaviour. We have welcomed the recent commitments and efforts from the University leadership to tackle the historic problems, and this incident shows that the change needed extends beyond policy and into culture.

‘This is a test for all of us. If we accept this style of leading a College as normal then what we saw on Friday will become the norm.

Notwithstanding any other positive things done at South College, Tim Luckhurst’s position at Durham is untenable. 

‘No Principal gets to abuse their students, call them pathetic, and then attack them for wanting to just be safe in their home. The Principal of South College’s position as an intellectual and pastoral leader is now a threat, not an asset, to our collegiate community.

We must make clear our commitment to our values, and demonstrate our anger that this response has been necessary, so we encourage all students, staff, and supporters to contact the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (College and Student Experience) to make their views known. 

‘The events of Friday are acknowledged as unacceptable, and we must now have the wider conversation about what we expect of our leaders, and the conversation must be bigger than the misdeeds of one stubborn man.

Finally, in situations like these, when someone is in the wrong but convinced of their ‘rights’, it can be incredibly easy to help them make themselves a martyr. Our community can’t afford to have someone who so clearly offends our values subjected to a rushed or flawed process that lets them claim to be a victim. 

‘We have to trust that the University leadership will do the right thing, even though the process won’t be in public and the outcome won’t be immediate. We should rightly be angry at the people who violate the values of our community, but we understand why institutional public statements are cautious in these situations. We’ll judge them on their response and how they demonstrate that Tim Luckhurst is not untouchable.’ 

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