Durham principal who called students 'pathetic' over Rod Liddle walkout steps back from some duties

A Durham college principal who has come under fire for calling students "pathetic" has stepped back from some of his duties.

Professor Tim Luckhurst, principal of South College, will not attend external events on behalf of Durham University while an investigation into a dinner attended by columnist Rod Liddle is underway.

Mr Liddle had been invited as a guest to speak at the college formal on Friday evening but some students staged a walkout before the speech.

Mr Liddle in 2015 Credit: PA

Prof Luckhurst has since apologised for calling the students' action "pathetic" adding that his anger reflected his "commitment to freedom of speech".

Durham Students' Union has described Prof Luckhurst's position as "untenable" after it accused him of insulting and humiliating students.

On Wednesday, students at Durham University staged a demonstration over the events at the formal.

A Durham University spokesman said: "While the investigation is ongoing, (Prof Luckhurst) will step back from some of his duties.

Prof Luckhurst withdrew from a talk at the university's debating society on Monday evening and the event was postponed.

Lee Worden, vice principal of South College, is currently responsible for all student-facing activity.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the formal dinner, which is due to conclude by mid-January, is being led by Prof Jane MacNaughton.

It will focus on the arrangements which led to Mr Liddle speaking at South College, as well as behaviour at the event, the university has confirmed.

In a statement , Professor Antony Long, the acting vice-chancellor of Durham University, said: "The events of last Friday at South College have caused considerable distress and anger across much of our community.

"Many staff and students, alumni as well as other stakeholders, are struggling to comprehend how a college formal, an event that is so commonly a source of intense community togetherness and enjoyment, could have caused so much distress and upset.

"I want to thank all of you who have written to me, and other members of the senior leadership team of the university, to tell me how you feel and what you think should happen now. Your letters and emails invariably convey carefully argued and respectful viewpoints.

"Although there will inevitably be a range of views and strong feelings across our community, it is important that our approach is one of kindness and respect towards one another," he continued.

"We need to set standards and expectations on how we discuss and debate issues respectfully.

"However, please let us be clear that no member of our university community should be subjected to transphobia, homophobia, racism, classism and sexism.

"We are committed to providing a safe place to live, work and study for all."