Student Initially Banned from Free Speech Debate for Saying ‘Women Don’t Have Penises’

Free Speech College
AFP PHOTO/Josh Edelson

A student from another university invited to participate in a debate on campus free speech at the University of Bristol in the U.K. was banned from the event after he re-tweeted an account that said, “women don’t have penises.” The university’s Students’ Union cited “security concerns” as its reason for exclusion. The student decided to attend the debate anyway and was eventually invited on stage.

University of Durham student Angelos Sofocleous was banned from participating in a panel hosted by the University of Bristol’s Free Speech Society after retweeting an account that posted, “RT [retweet] if women don’t have penises.”

Sofocleous was also dismissed from his role as assistant editor at Durham University’s philosophy society’s journal last August, after his tweets were deemed “transphobic” by some people, according to a report by BBC News.

With regards to the student’s Twitter account, the University of Bristol Free Speech Society informed the Sofocleous that his invitation to speak on a panel discussion about free speech was canceled due to “security concerns.”

“We are saddened to inform you that due to Student Union (SU) bureaucracy we have been forced to cancel the invitation we extended to Angelos Sofocleous to be on our panel discussion on free speech,” said the Free Speech Society in a public statement.

The Free Speech Society added that the first question for the panel would ironically be, “is there a problem with free speech on campus?”

“I have just been de-platformed by @Bristol_SU from a panel debate on ‘Free speech on campus’ organized by the University of Bristol Free Speech Society due to concerns that ‘my presence might spark protests which might lead to physical violence,'” tweeted Sofocleous last week.

The university’s SU also stated that their “initial assessment of the speaker, made in consultation with the police, is that public disorder is highly likely,” according to the student.

“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,'” added Sofocleous.

On Wednesday, the student attended the debate anyway — as a guest — and after seeing that the event proceeded without any protest or violence, Sofocleous was able to join the panel as originally planned, according to BBC News.

“The fact I turned up and nothing bad happened, not even a minor incident, just proves that the SU did not make a good assessment of me,” said the student.

During the panel discussion, Sofocleous had also mentioned that it was “ridiculous that anyone’s right to not be offended is more important than their right to freedom of speech,” according to the university’s student newspaper.

The SU denies accusations that it has been a threat to free speech, claiming that “Bristol SU is committed to freedom of speech and the rights of all our students to discuss difficult and sensitive topics.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.


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