Leeds students protest against homophobic lecturer

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Students at the University of Leeds are raising concerns over a lecturer they claim made openly homophobic, racist and misogynistic remarks in a interview with the student union paper.

Dr Frank Ellis, a British National Party affiliate and lecturer in Russian and Slavonic Studies at the academic institution, told student reporter, Matt Kennard, that homosexuality is wrong and should be “weeded out of theological seminaries.”

He told the Leeds Student, “When homosexuals, or gay rights activists as they like to call themselves, want to change the law to compel to people to accept homosexual and heterosexual are one and the same things or just variations on a theme, that is when I feel I have to take a stand against them.”

The professor, who checked and approved the interview before it was published, also labelled AIDs as a gay disease, he said: “It’s the drugs they take as well which is a big problem, isn’t it?”

“They take a lot of amphetamines, and nitrate based drugs to increase their sort of erotic performance and so on. And also the very mechanics of buggery as well, I mean it’s one of the effective ways , maybe the most effective way, of spreading AIDS, is it not? … I mean, how anybody can do that in an age now, particularly knowing the threat of AIDS as well is just beyond me.”

Further controversy was caused by racist comments such as his claim that “there is a persistent gap in average black and white average IQ.”

Student groups have started a petition for his dismissal and there are calls to boycott his lectures.

The Leeds Student Union has called the academic “dangerous to the unity of students”

Nic Turner and Joe Black, from Leeds University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) society, voiced outrage at his remarks, Ms Turner said: “His comments are completely wrong, how can someone with those bigoted views be allowed to teach? He has to deal with people from all walks of life.”

Ruqayyah Collector, Leeds University’s Education Officer, raised fears that his outburst may cause students to face discrimination when their work was marked, “The racist views expressed by Frank Ellis, a lecturer of Slavic Studies, threaten the safety of thousands of students, as well as bringing disgrace to our university.”

“Students are clearly going to be facing discrimination from Professor Frank Ellis, who claims that white students are more academically talented than black students.”

The university condemned Dr Ellis’s views but said he is entitled to his personal opinions, university secretary, Roger Gair said: “The University of Leeds is a diverse and multicultural community whose staff and students are proud to support our values, which include mutual respect, diversity and equal opportunity, and collegiality.”

He said the teacher has no right to treat students or colleagues in a prejudicial or discriminatory manner, and they would look carefully at any evidence presented on this.

“Our staff have the freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom and put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs.”

“We would expect such academic freedom to respect the University’s values, and to be exercised within their context. We are deeply distressed that this expectation has not been met in opinions attributed to Dr Ellis.”

The University has written to Dr Ellis asking him to clarify his position with respect to the University’s policy on equality and diversity, and is seeking clarification on the legal implications of his attributed comments.

Mr Gair added, “The University has in place a system of checks and balances to ensure that all students are fairly treated. All work counting towards a degree is double-marked by a combination of internal and external examiners. University policy requires external examiners to check marks for each student across all modules and also the marks achieved by everyone taking each module. Several members of staff are involved with assessing a student during their degree, and exams are, of course, anonymously marked.”