A former Durham University student who made national news in a row over transphobia has received a letter of apology from Durham University’s Department of Philosophy.
Angelos Sofocleous claimed he had been subject to “harassment and bullying” by the department in the wake of the controversy, which had centred around a post he shared on Twitter in 2018. This initial complaint was not upheld, but upon review he was issued with a letter of apology regarding the handling of the complaint.
The letter to Sofocleous read: “The Philosophy Department could have dealt with [your] initial complaint in a more appropriate and timely manner. I am sorry that you feel we fell short in your case.
“I am writing to apologise for that on behalf of the department and assure you that in future we will make efforts to process complaints quicker.”
The letter was sent via the Student Conduct Office. In a statement to Palatinate, Sofocleous questioned “how honest and heartfelt any apology is if it’s communicated via a third party”. He also said he had been subject to “victim blaming”.
In future we will make efforts to process complaints quickerDurham University Department of Philosophy
The initial controversy was based on a retweet by Sofocleous in 2018 while he was a philosophy postgraduate, that read: ‘“RT [retweet] if women don’t have penises” linked to an article on the same subject in The Spectator.
In the following months, Sofocleous was removed from his position as assistant editor of Durham’s Philosophy journal, Critique, dismissed as General Editor of The Bubble, and, under mounting pressure, resigned his position as President-Elect of Humanist Students. His resignation statement, which defended his actions, can be read here.
Sofocleous’s actions attracted widespread controversy within Durham as well as nationally.
The tweet received backlash from Chris Ward, former Chair of LGBT Humanists, for being “horrific” and “transphobic.”
Sofocleous garnered support from Toby Young, British Journalist and former Director of the New Schools Network, who tweeted Sofocleous’ replacement as editor of Critique, asking: “Shouldn’t you be encouraging debate about important issues rather than stifling it?”
Sofocleous’s actions attracted widespread controversy within Durham as well as nationally
After his dismissal as assistant editor of Critique and General Editor of The Bubble, Sofocleous filed a complaint to Durham’s Students’ Union regarding his “unfair treatment”.
In a letter addressed to Sofocleous from the Students’ Union, Sofocleous’ dismissal from the institutions was deemed “procedurally incorrect”, “unfair and undemocratic”.
The letter continued to say “You are entitled to hold and express these views.
“The Societies were also entitled to react to your free speech with their own expression of free speech, including a vote of no confidence.”
The letter added, “This is, in my view, an indication of a healthy democratic environment – as long as both sides are heard. This did not happen in your case.”
The SU also posted an apology on their website, which said: “After investigation, Durham SU wishes to apologise to Angelos Sofocleous for the process used to remove him from the roles of Deputy Editor of The Bubble and Assistant Editor of the Philosophy Society Journal, Critique.”