A student who faced repercussions after re-tweeting ‘women don’t have penises’ last year, has been barred from a free speech debate over ‘security concerns’.
Angelos Sofocleous posted the statement on social media last August, facing backlash immediately afterwards, with people calling him transphobic and ignorant for his views.
As a result, he was sacked from his role as president of Humanist Students and assistant editor of Durham University’s philosophy society journal – and now he’s been barred from a free speech debate at Bristol University.
The student wrote in the Spectator how he was supposed to be taking part in a panel hosted by Bristol University’s Free Speech Society on Wednesday (February 13), but has now been ‘de-platformed’.
Bristol students’ union refused to accept me as a speaker, forcing the free speech society to cancel their invitation to me in fear that my presence might spark protests. The SU went on to claim that ‘public disorder is highly likely.’
Sofocleous has also been very vocal on social media since his barring, saying the university’s decision proves there is an inherent problem with free speech on campuses around the country.
The question the panel would raise is “Is there a problem with free speech on campus?” @Bristol_SU has answered this question loud and clear, even before the event takes place, using tactics that have only been practiced by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and institutions.
— Angelos Sofocleous (@Sofocleous_A) February 10, 2019
Sofocleous, who’s a student at Durham University, was told he was unable to speak on the panel just days before it was due to go ahead.
In one tweet, he wrote:
Nothing could provide a more ironic indication of the current status of social justice orthodoxy in academia than banning a speaker from an event titled ‘Free speech on campus’.
The University of Bristol Free Speech Society – which invited Sofocleous to speak – made the announcement on their Facebook page on February 9, stating the Student Union was at fault.
The post read:
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’…
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.
The student union hit back, saying it had not refused Sofocleous as a speaker and it was committed to freedom of speech, the Metro reports.
A spokesperson for the SU said:
Bristol SU and the University of Bristol have a joint external speakers procedure, which applies to all bookings and events. Bristol SU made an initial assessment of the speaker and recommended that security would be needed to ensure this event could run safely and smoothly.
The Freedom of Speech Society was informed of this one week prior to the event with the recommendation that the event is rearranged in order to allow security measures to be put in place and the event to go ahead.
After the event took place, Sofocleous revealed to his followers he’d attended the panel as a guest, but had then joined the panel after ‘audience demand’.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).