A university lecturer who claimed that black people were less intelligent than whites was suspended from his post yesterday.
Frank Ellis, a lecturer in Russian and Slavonic Studies, was sent home on full pay by the University of Leeds, which accused him of breaching its obligations to promote racial harmony under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.
It is the first significant test of academic freedom since the introduction of the Act, which places a duty on public bodies to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between different races.
Dr Ellis gave an interview to the university’s student newspaper in which he described himself as “an unrepentant Powellite” who favoured repatriation if it were carried out “humanely”. He said that the British National Party was “a bit too socialist” for his liking.
He voiced support for the theory set out in The Bell Curve, a book published in 1994 by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, that white people had higher average IQs than blacks. He said the study had “demonstrated to me beyond any reasonable doubt there is a persistent gap in average black and white average intelligence”.
Dr Ellis also told Leeds students that women did not have the same intellectual capacity as men and that feminism, along with multiculturalism, was “corroding” Britain. His views outraged students, who staged a campaign to have him dismissed from the university.
Leeds responded initially by stating that Dr Ellis had a right to express his views, although they were “abhorrent to the overwhelming majority of our staff and students”. Officials said that they had no evidence that his beliefs had led him to discriminate against students or colleagues.
Yesterday, however, it announced that the ViceChancellor, Professor Michael Arthur, had suspended Dr Ellis and that disciplinary proceedings had begun. Roger Gair, the University Secretary, said that in publicising his views Dr Ellis had “acted in breach of our equality and diversity policy, and in a way that is wholly at odds with our values”.
The lecturer had “recklessly jeopardised the fulfilment of the university’s obligations under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000”. Mr Gair said: “As a public body, the university is required under that Act to promote good relations between people of different racial groups. That is a requirement we are happy to accept.”
Leeds said that Dr Ellis had also “failed to comply with reasonable requests given to him by his employer”. These included issuing an apology for the distress caused by his remarks and giving an undertaking not to repeat his views on racial differences in public.
Mr Gair said that the university was “clearly and publicly distancing itself from Dr Ellis’s comments on race”. Scientific questions about racial groups were “a long way from his own area of expertise as a lecturer in Russian and Slavonic studies”.
After the initial furore over the interview this month, Dr Ellis wrote an article for the student newspaper in which he stated: “Multiculturalism is doomed to failure, and is failing, because it is based on the lie that all people, races and cultures are equal.”
Other universities are watching the case carefully as they strive to balance their duties under the Act with the obligation to defend the freedom of academics to hold unpalatable or unpopular views without putting their jobs in jeopardy.
Universities UK issued a guide last year on dealing with hate crimes and intolerance on campus. It advised vice-chancellors that “proportionate interference with the lecturer’s right to freedom of expression is permissible where necessary to protect the rights and freedoms of others”.
THEORIES OF CONTROVERSY
Paul Irwing, a University of Manchester lecturer, published a paper in the British Journal of Psychology last year showing that men had higher average IQs than women
The University of Edinburgh sacked psychology lecturer Chris Brand in 1997 after he argued that black people were less intelligent than whites and that paedophilia was acceptable in some cases. He received £12,000 in an out-of-court settlement
The 1994 book The Bell Curve claimed that blacks in Western countries scored on average 15 points below the average white IQ of 100, and that a “cognitive elite” led by Ashkenazi Jews with an average IQ of 115 would lead developed societies