Lecturer who said 'blacks were inferior' retires early

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The Independent Online

A university lecturer who was suspended after claiming black people were intellectually inferior to whites has taken early retirement.

Frank Ellis, of Leeds University, whose comments are being examined by West Yorkshire Police, told the student newspaper at Leeds University that he supported a theory that whites were generally more intelligent. He was suspended in March and yesterday the university said the Russian and Slavonic studies lecturer had left permanently, on 30 June.

The university disclosed that that the 53-year-old had retired on the same standard terms available to his colleagues but indicated that it had agreed to pay him a year's salary and to make a contribution towards his legal costs, in return for his agreeing to bring forward his retirement a year sooner than he had wanted.

The deal enables the university to avert a high-profile dispute that would have tested the race relations legislation under which it had decided it could suspend Dr Ellis. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act of 2000 requires public bodies to give due regard to the need "to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups". But the university's disciplinary investigation was made more difficult by the lack of evidence that Dr Ellis had treated any of his pupils in a prejudicial way. Leeds was the first university to suspend a lecturer under the Act and some considered its use of the legislation in this way to be inappropriate.

Dr Ellis's comments caused controversy at the university in 2000 when, at a conference of far-right groups in the US, he likened the inquiry into police handling of the Stephen Lawrence murder to one of Stalin's show trials. The event attracts white supremacist organisations, including the Ku Klux Klan.

He described himself as an "unrepentant Powellite" who thought the BNP was "a bit too socialist" in an interview with the Leeds Student newspaper.

The clamour for his removal culminated in a protest by more than 300 students and staff earlier this year. For a time, the university resisted the calls, insisting that staff were free to proffer controversial views and test received wisdom without fear of removal. But Dr Ellis refused to guarantee that he would make no future assertions about racial superiority.

Dr Ellis indicated through friends that the threat of dismissal had infuriated him and that he considered such a ban a violation of human rights legislation. Prior to his suspension the university said Dr Ellis' views were "abhorrent".

Dr Ellis has expressed support for the Bell Curve theory, examined in a book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, which concludes that ethnicity can play a part in IQ levels. Labelling him a racist was "an attempt to close down any discussion" and an attack on his freedom of speech, he said. "These days a racist is anything you don't like - it's a hate word. I have no strong feelings towards black people either way."