By Clara Gaspar
The assistant editor of Durham’s Philosophy Society journal, Critique, has been fired for comments related to a retweet on his personal twitter account which were deemed “transphobic”.
Angelos Sofocleous, the recently appointed assistant editor of the journal, was removed from his position after posting a tweet that read: “RT (retweet) if women don’t have penises” linked to an article on the same subject in The Spectator. Angelos then wrote an article in which he defended this position in resigning as President-Elect of Humanists UK.
The Durham University postgraduate student was subsequently sent an email from the President of the Philosophy society notifying him that he had been removed from his position following a vote. The email stated that his comments served to “belittle trans experiences” while leaving “no room for or to promote any fair discussions.”
The tweet also received backlash from Chris Ward, former Chair of LGBT Humanists, for being “horrific” and “transphobic.”
As former Chair of @LGBTHumanistsUK, the opposition I experienced from a number of longstanding @Humanists_UK members to trans people and trans issues was a stain on an otherwise great organisation. And here's the new President of @HumanistStudent RTing horrific transphobic shit. pic.twitter.com/ssUn8Kfn3L
— Chris Ward (@christopherward) August 20, 2018
New Editor-in-Chief of Critique Journal, Sebastián Sánchez-Schilling, maintained the Journal’s decision to remove Sofocleous, writing “we won’t be tolerating TERFs or bowing to their pressure.”
TERF is a controversial acronym meaning “trans exclusionary radical feminist” and is a term often interpreted as a slur in feminist debate.
However, Sánchez-Schilling subsequently tweeted: “In response to the hundreds of notifications I have: women can have penises and this is regardless of whether you conceive gender to be based on sex or not, TERF is not a slur, comparisons to Orwell are trite and there is more to philosophy than pedantic debate.”
Sofocleous garnered support from Toby Young, British Journalist and former Director of the New Schools Network , who tweeted Sanchez-Schilling asking: “Shouldn’t you be encouraging debate about important issues rather than stifling it?”
As the editor of a philosophy journal at one of Britain’s great universities, @latesebaatian, how do you justify not tolerating dissent from campus orthodoxies? Shouldn’t you be encouraging debate about important issues rather than stifling it? https://t.co/RDZOmbVamN
— Toby Young (@toadmeister) September 1, 2018
Sofocleous has argued his removal by the society did not follow Durham Students’ Union’s disciplinary policy procedure and that the society was not transparent as to how the decision was reached, nor were members contacted in reaching this decision.
He told Palatinate: “This is also an act of dismissal of free speech, where an individual is punished for making a political statement.
“It is a disgrace that this came from the Philosophy society, a society which should aim to advance freedom of speech and encourage debate on all kinds of issues, especially issues which affect women.”
Defending their decision to remove Sofocleous from the journal, Ryan Lo, President of Durham University Philosophy Society and Sebastián Sánchez-Schilling wrote on Critique’s Facebook page: “Durham University Philosophy Society stands by the policies adopted by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team within the Department of Philosophy, therefore we do not tolerate practices of racism, sexism, or trans-exclusionary sentiments.”
Photograph: Maddie Flisher