The campaign by staff and students at Leeds University to sack the racist lecturer Frank Ellis has scored a success. The university has suspended Ellis after racist and homophobic comments he made.
This was a battle we needed to win. Ellis threw down the gauntlet to the university’s equal opportunities policies and the Race Relations Act.
Now we must be careful that the university does not backslide.
It is unlikely that it will because Ellis is so damaging to the image of an international, multicultural university that it wishes to create.
Ellis was offered the chance to apologise by the university, which he refused. Obviously he wishes to be a “free speech” martyr.
The campaign was helped by the changed circumstances in the university created by the growing radicalisation of university staff.
The last time we campaigned for his sacking – after he attended a meeting of the far right American Renaissance group five years ago – we failed to get support from staff in his department.
This time was different. The AUT lecturers’ union supported the university’s action against Ellis. Staff from the languages faculty proposed that he be sacked.
Together with the student campaign, very effective pressure was built up forcing the university to act.
It is important that this pressure is kept up with messages of support to the university, copied to the local AUT branch, calling for him to be sacked.
The news of Ellis’s suspension pending disciplinary proceedings was well received by students who had fought to have him removed.
Sophie Smith-Rudge is a Student Respect activist and Unite Against Fascism member who helped lead the demonstration against Ellis.
She said, “This is a great result for staff and students alike here at Leeds. He no longer has the prestigious platform to use to preach racist lies.
“The next task is to make sure that he is permanently removed from his position and that racism is banished from our campus.”