Dumb Durham

Dumb Durham

Last September student Angelos Sofocleous, studying philosophy MA at Durham, was sacked from his role as assistant editor of the university’s philosophy journal for retweeting an article in The Spectator. His crime was to have added to the tweet “RT (retweet) if women don’t have penises”. A not inappropriate comment given that the title of the article by James Kirkup was “Is it a crime to say women don’t have penises?”

He was notified via an email from the President of the Philosophy Society saying he had been removed from his position following a vote by the society. The email stated that his comments served to “belittle trans experiences” and were “transphobic”.

The Philosophy Society’s official website says that to join “No prior philosophy knowledge is needed, only an open mind”. There must have been a putsch and the society has been taken over by a bunch or retarded snowflakes.

But it gets worse. Angelos was invited to speak at a University of Bristol Free Speech Society meeting entitled “Is there a problem with Free Speech on campus”. As someone who had suffered from a lack of free speech recently, he was a good choice of speaker. However, the University of Bristol Student Union banned him from the panel discussion and told the Free Speech Society to disinvite him. Their lame excuse was that having consulted with the police, the union deemed his presence would be “highly likely” to cause “public disorder”. A request for a copy of the claimed “assessment report” was declined, probably because it doesn’t exist.

The University of Bristol Free Speech Society subsequently issued the following statement:

February 9 at 1:47 PM ·
STATEMENT REGARDING UPCOMING PANEL EVENT:

We are saddened to inform you that due to Student Union bureaucracy we have been forced to cancel the invitation we extended to Angelos Sofocleous to be on our panel discussion on free speech. We have given the SU plenty of notice for this event. But they felt it proper to cancel his attendance in the last minute, citing “security concerns”. For context, Angelos is a full time student at Durham University who lives amongst students on campus. We leave it to the public to reach their own conclusions with regards to the SU’s intentions.

In the government’s guidance for students on free speech released last year it states, “Students should not be deterred from organising events due to over-bureaucratic procedures”. Ironically, the first question we intended to put before our panel – ‘is there a problem with free speech on campus?’ – has been answered for us loud and clear.

Our event will still be going ahead with the other panellists and will be open for students as well as to the public. We encourage anyone who cares about free speech to turn up to show their support for the cause. Tickets are free, but mandatory.

We are happy to give statements to the press. Message us on our page.

The saga ends with Angelos Sofocleous, having already purchased his rail ticket, attending the meeting as a member of the audience. As the meeting started an audience member shouted, “why can’t he just go up there?”. After consultation with the other panellists he was invited onto the stage to complete the panel as originally planned.

There was no public disorder, the police were not called and there was no protest of any kind, but there was a sensible and interesting debate. It will be interesting to see where these two universities are in the 2018 Free Speech University Rankings.