A UK university professor is under investigation after calling “pathetic” a student walkout, which was staged against allegedly racist and transphobic speech by a guest lecturer.
Professor Tim Luckhurst, who heads South College at Durham University, made the remark when students walked away from right-wing journalist Rod Liddle’s controversial speech on Friday. He would also have shouted “At South College, we value freedom of speech!
Liddle, who works for The Spectator magazine, had accused the political left of ignoring science when it comes to transgender issues. According to The Telegraph, he also argued that colonialism is “Not by far the main cause of Africa’s problems” and asserted that institutional racism was not to blame for underachieving black students. The students apparently shouted “disgusting!” And “racist!” to Liddle as he left the room later.
Although Luckhurst sent an email to the students to apologize, the university launched an investigation into his conduct over the weekend, as “Matter of urgency”. While “categorically” disagreeing with Liddle’s comments, school officials have indicated that they “concerning” about “Exposed behavior” during the evening that was falling “Below what we expect. “
Luckhurst was reportedly removed from his official duties and placed under gag order over the controversy. The university’s student union reportedly said his position at the institution was “untenable” while the Union of Universities and Colleges, which represents professors, said it was “completely appalled.”
After the speech, a poster from the LGBTQ Stonewall charity that read “Some people are trans. To move on!” was apparently stuck on the door of Luckhurst’s office. According to the student newspaper Palatinate, a number of students are organizing protests against Luckhurst this week.
In addition, the students wrote an open letter to the rector of the university, criticizing both Liddle’s remarks as “Transphobic, sexist, racist and classist”, as well as the decision to invite him to the event. The letter, signed by more than 1,000 people, asks Luckhurst to apologize. Student groups also demanded greater transparency in the selection of guest speakers at university events.
After the backlash, Luckhurst apologized to the students via an email that allegedly said the students had “As much the right to be absent from the speech as my guest had to.” He said his temper at the walkout “Reflected my sincere commitment to freedom of expression.”