Update – University of Southampton Launches Investigation Into Politics Lecturer’s Tweets

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The University of Southampton is launching a formal investigation into a series of public tweets posted by Dr Justin Murphy, an academic in Political Science at the University.

While most of Dr Murphy’s tweets were originally overlooked, on the 25th September he replied to a tweet asking about his belief of the definition of communism with the following tweet:

This tweet led to him being accused of using ‘hateful, ableist and disrespectful’ language by SUSU President Emily Dawes and subsequently resulted in the unveiling of previous tweets by Dr Murphy, which many people have viewed as inappropriate and offensive.

The University has confirmed a formal investigation will take place, with a University spokesperson providing the following statement to Wessex Scene:

The personal views expressed by a member of staff on his personal social media are clearly incompatible with a University which prides itself on its tolerance, collegiality and inclusivity, and we completely disassociate ourselves from these comments. We take this matter very seriously and we have immediately launched a formal investigation.

Wessex Scene contacted SUSU President Emily Dawes regarding her social media posts calling out Dr Murphy for this tweet and others. Regarding what action or actions she’d like the University to take, Emily said:

I cannot comment at this time on our desired outcome. I will say that we are working very closely with the university right now to ensure an effective result is achieved, which requires the HR policy to be followed rigorously, hence why I cannot comment. The university and SUSU are treating this with the upmost severity and I hope our students understand the legal boundaries that we face. I heavily encourage any students that have something to say to email me at pres@susu.org, where I will make sure everything is kept confidential.

Emily Dawes also informed Wessex Scene that she first became aware of the tweets in question following a student contacting her during Freshers, which she saw yesterday when she returned to her desk after Freshers’ events.

Emily also stated that before tweeting publicly, she emailed the University’s HR (Human Resources) department, as well as a senior member in the Faculty of Social Sciences (FSS), who ‘passed on my concerns to the Dean’.

In view of the close proximity of SUSU sabbatical officer social media posting about Mr Murphy’s tweets, Wessex Scene asked Emily Dawes if there had been any pre-planned coordination of these social media posts. Emily said:

There was no pre-planned coordination. I found the tweets via the email from a student, immediately flagged it up with the university and let my colleagues know that we work on the same campus as this lecturer. The response from my sabbatical team was of their own accord and was simply them reacting (justifiably) with disgust and anger.

In May 2018, Dr Murphy compared abortion to necrophilia by tweeting that: ‘The question of necrophilia does raise some interesting and useful challenges to many comfortably held positions today. For instance, if you’re pro-choice in the abortion debate, I find it very difficult to see how you could possibly have ethical objections to necrophilia.’

After this tweet was released he was subsequently interviewed by Babe in an attempt to understand the reasoning behind his words and when asked how he ‘drew the parallel between necrophilia and abortion’ he said that ‘… you could actually justify necrophilia on grounds of queer politics or even more mainstream feminist politics’.

He has received strong criticism from yesterday evening for another of his tweets:

As well as several SUSU sabbatical officers and students, a University of Southampton Modern History academic, Dr Charlotte Lydia Riley, has also criticised Dr Murphy’s tweets:

Dr Murphy has defended on Twitter the tweets which have been singled out, including with the following post:

Dr Murphy also tweeted overnight saying ‘he’s not really worried’ about losing his job permanently at the University:

Update: Wessex Scene contacted the University seeking confirmation that Dr Murphy had been suspended as a lecturer for 30 days on paid leave as this tweet by Dr Murphy regarding the University process now taking place and his replies to comments on it, suggest:

Wessex Scene also asked if Dr Murphy is being suspended for a period of time, ‘What will happen for the students enrolled on modules which he convenes or lectures in, or who were assigned Dr Murphy as their dissertation tutor?’ A University spokesperson responded to say that they were ‘not able to discuss any details of Dr Murphy’s individual case’, but in response to the latter question, stated:

 In the event of an academic colleague’s absence, for whatever reason, every effort is made by the Faculty and University to prioritise the needs of our students whilst causing minimal disruption to fellow academics who may take on additional duties in support.

Any students directly affected will be contacted by the Faculty as plans are finalised. Students who have questions or concerns are advised to contact the Faculty office, in the first instance.

Wessex Scene will update this story if and when any more detail comes to light.

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