A left-wing student union was last night accused of trying to ‘rubbish’ a university newspaper and torpedo press rights.
Durham’s Union of Students has been criticized for trying to secretly seize the legal right to use the name Palatinate – the title of the university’s flagship student newspaper.
The motion is a bid to prevent the 74-year-old paper from stripping the union of its rights and remaining independent.
The Palatinate, which is distributed free of charge, is edited by Fleet Street legend Sir Harold Evans and is a training ground for BBC broadcasters Jeremy Vine and George Alagiah.
Durham’s Union of Students has been criticized for trying to secretly seize the legal right to use the name Palatinate – the title of the university’s flagship student newspaper. Photo: Durham University
The paper’s former editor Jeremy Vine accused the union of ‘misconduct’. He added: ‘We know why the student union doesn’t like them – because sometimes a newspaper prints a very important article.’
However, its future has been threatened since 2020, when the students’ union allocated funds for the publication of the newspaper.
Union leaders blamed financial pressures and the Covid crisis, but many students believed the decision was politically motivated and said freedom of expression was being suppressed.
Durham’s speechless crisis shows how far it has fallen
By Toby Young
Universities should be places where students are exposed to a variety of ideas and have the opportunity to test ideas in open discussion and debate.
If students are told only one acceptable point of view on hot topics like gender identity and the British colonial past they might as well be in a madrasa.
Instead of being taught to think, they are taught to think.
I’m afraid Durham is going to be like that. The student union’s efforts to shut down the print edition of Palatinate – a very good reason, its supporters say, as it puts senior left-wing union officials in check – just an example of how far this university has come. fall
Since I founded the Free Speech Union two and a half years ago, there has been more outcry from students and academics at Durham than at any other university in England.
We should come to the aid of a young artist who was fired after his support for Israel and opposition to gay marriage was deemed beyond the pale. We found him to be a good lawyer and overturned the eviction.
We got back to work when Professor Timothy Luckhurst, head of Durham College, got himself into hot water when he invited Rod Liddle to give an after-dinner talk. A few students complained that the columnist’s views did not suit them, and – surprisingly – Tim was investigated. With our help, he was able to do it again with minimal fuss.
At the start of the year, Durham appointed a new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O’Brien, who pledged her commitment to free speech. If he says so, he should tell the student union to back off and stop trying to shut down the university’s independent student newspaper.
Earlier this year, the newspaper proposed to go independent, but its plan was rejected by the union.
According to the editors of the paper, one week later the union asked for trademark rights for the name of Palatinate without consulting them. Winning the legal right to use the trademark will force you to cancel the exclusive request.
Nicole Wu, 21, one of Palatinate’s co-editors, said the union’s move was ‘absolutely shocking’.
‘We’re still in awe of how they did that. Obviously it’s very sad. It shows they don’t want to join us.’
More than 50 current and former editors of the paper, including Mr Vine, this week backed the separate application and accused the union of ‘abandoning their core commitment to the newspaper’ ‘.
Mr Vine last night accused the union of ‘misconduct’. It’s one thing to cut off their bags and let them sink or swim, but they seem to be jumping on them to stay underwater.
‘We know why the student union doesn’t like them – because sometimes a newspaper prints a very important article.’
In an attempt to secure the Palatinate’s future, the Mail on Sunday can reveal today that it has offered to donate £20,000 to help it become independent from the money of the union.
Most importantly, this newspaper has pledged that funding will never compromise its editorial independence. ‘For the avoidance of doubt, the Palatinate will remain separate from the Mail on Sunday and Newspapers,’ said MoS managing director Robyn Kelly. ‘These are gifts you don’t ask us to return.’
Joe Rossiter, co-editor of Palatinate, said the paper had rejected the trademark application and the union now had two months to present its case.
He said: ‘This newspaper is run by students. As students write stories, stories emerge as they create pages. It’s not the result of the students’ union.’
A report dug up by this newspaper two years ago said the union was ‘undemocratic’ and took on a ‘toxic atmosphere’.
Students have shown how the union’s decision to cut funding for the paper in 2020 followed a series of Palatinate articles about the electoral crisis, more than 2,000 students refused to support the candidates.
Sophie Corcoran, a Durham graduate who stood for president of the union this year, described the union as ‘remedial’, saying: ‘The Palatinate is right about the electoral debate but the SU liked it because they were talking. the truth.’
A spokesman for the union said: ‘Durham SU responded to a separate threat to the misuse of the Palatinate badge and archive in 2021… by pursuing a badge application.
‘Like the Mail on Sunday, good intellectual property protection will never, ever, prevent journalists from writing what they want for a publisher.’