The Loneliest Jukebox

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Frank Remarks

Goth capital Leeds University is the focus for a campaign to sack a lecturer with politically incorrect views (details here). Some of the campaigning arguments directed at Dr Frank Ellis, lecturer in Russian and Slavonic studies, illustrate nicely the problems of a selective approach to free speech:
"If Ellis was a Muslim making comments suggesting women are less intelligent than men and that homosexuality should be weeded out of society, there is little doubt that he would have been attacked mercilessly by the right wing press. He would probably already be out of a job.

... Lizzie Bowden, a third year Leeds student, commented, “As a gay student I feel very unhappy about the university’s decision to refuse to sack Ellis. What he said about homosexuality belongs in the dark ages.
“He is attacking all students with his misinformed views and he should be removed from his position immediately.”

So by that logic, if Ellis was a Muslim making these remarks, would the University be wrong to sack him? (Or would this be taken as a sign of "Islamophobia"?) Is it desirable that we can be fired/sacked on the basis of our opinions? Can this now be aggravated by us having the 'wrong' motives for holding those opinions? Thus it's okay be prejudiced from a faith-based perspective, but not out of dubious intellectual conviction.
Leeds University has a equally pick-and-mix approach to the issue:
"Academic freedom is another of our values; this means 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."
Academic freedom, but only within context, please.

Once again, a lone eccentric has got the campus left tied in knots because of its selective support for free expression.

Where's Leeds University's Free Speech society when you need it?


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