Published: 21:23, 07 December 2021
| Updated: 21:39, 07 December 2021
A leading academic has come under fire after branding a walkout by students at a paid event he hosted featuring a controversial columnist "pathetic".
Durham University Professor Tim Luckhurst made the remark when youngsters left a speech by the journalist Rod Liddle, who he had invited to a Christmas formal dinner held last Friday.
During the talk, Mr Liddle, columnist and associate editor of the Spectator, addressed trans issues, women's rights and institutional racism.
Upset at his comments, many students opted to leave before he finished his speech.
But footage has since emerged of Mr Luckhurst, the former head of the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent's Chatham Maritime campus, confronting students on their decision to leave early.
He was seen challenging the youngsters who he said “shouldn’t be at university” if they refuse to listen to alternative views.
“At South College we value freedom of speech!” he added.
In a further bizarre twist, his wife Dorothy Luckhurst was also seen getting into a heated debate with a student over the use of the word "a***".
She subsequently tweeted: “Bunch of inadequates thought it was clever to walk out on a speech tonight because they were afraid of what the speaker said.”
The student union has since called for the South College Principal to resign, adding "Inviting your friend to deliberatively provoke and shock students in their own home is a violation of their community"
Following a backlash, Professor Luckhurst reportedly emailed students to apologise – but the university has since launched an investigation.
The email said the students had "as much right to absent themselves from the speech as my guest had to make it", Durham University's student newspaper Palatinate reported.
It added: "I responded to their decision by reminding the students that South College is committed to the defence of free speech. When they did not return to their seats, I called their walkout 'pathetic'.
"My anger reflected my sincere commitment to freedom of speech. However, I was wrong to describe the students’ action as pathetic and I apologise unreservedly."
The student outcry comes amid a national debate over "non-platforming" and "cancel culture" at universities and efforts to protect freedom of speech.