All entries for Thursday 23 March 2006
March 23, 2006
Dr Frank Ellis, a lecturer in russian and slavonic studies from the university of Leeds has been suspended because he believes that black people are 'intellectually inferior' (ie, dumber) than white people. He also believes women to be 'intellectually inferior' to men. He aired his views in an interview with the student newspaper, in which these and a number of comments revealed him to be strongly right-wing, sexist and racist. (If you believe that a person or group of persons is inferior to you, a) you are discriminating against them and b) you are holding prejudices) Ellis claims that he treats everyone like an individual, and does not make assumptions based on these wider 'rules'. I'm not convinced that anyone can have these beliefs and still treat black people or women identically to white or male students, but if he can, congratulations to him. However, that doesn't answer the question of how a black or female student would feel with him as a tutor, having to go to lectures or seminars with him. It would be greatly unfair to expect those students not to feel anxious in that kind of situation. I suppose it is this which has led to his suspension. I can't help but feel a slight joy at it.
Of course, the thing which has thrown the lefty-liberals into a tizzy is the issue of freedom of speech, and civil liberties being eroded (see Marcel Berlins column at link for a convincing argument for preserving them). All things should be sacrificed on the alter of freedom of expression. I include myself in this tizzy-ing – generally, freedom of speech something i value highly. But there are always exceptions – the BNP, for example are banned from speaking on campus, and I quite approve of that. I think. The problem is, people can't be trusted to think the right things. And so, you run the risk of turning the liberal lefty into an endangered species, because suddenly everyones reading the sun and joing the BNP. Its a terrible conundrum. I'm still not entirely sure Ellis being suspended is a good thing. Now Leeds will be accused of hiding behind 'political correctness', an issue which I'll address when i have the energy.
Another argument I've heard a lot of, is that Universities are centres for academic debate, and instead of silencing Frank Ellis, we should argue with him. Some have even commented that they find his suggestions interesting. My argument against him will follow :)