A tribunal has backed a university after it dismissed a professor for using “positive stereotypes” about racial groups, including Jews.
Stephen Lamonby, a 73-year-old professor, was dismissed by Solent University for making controversial statements in a private conversation with his course leader, including that “I believe that the Jewish are the cleverest people in the world [sic]. They are much maligned because of it. I asked if you were Jewish because of your ability with maths/physics etc. Which is a speciality of theirs.”
He later explained that “I was excited to think she might be one of them – excited to meet a Jewish physicist, who had been my heroes since boyhood.”
Prof Lamonby had also said that “Germans are good engineers” and made a similar comment about Japanese people and Americans. He further apparently said that he “had a soft spot” for young black men because “many are without fathers” and so “need all the help they can get.”
Prof Lamonby took the University to a tribunal, but the Judge C H O’Rourke said: “For the avoidance of doubt, I find that it is clearly at least potentially racist to group nationalities, races, ethnic or religious groups, by entire categories and to ascribe certain abilities or talents (or the opposite) to them, when, of course, as with any such group, talents or abilities will vary wildly from individual to individual…
“While Mr Lamonby sought to argue that his stereotyping (which it was) was positive, such ‘positivity’ is nonetheless potentially offensive to the recipient. A Jew told they are good at physics – because they are a Jew – may well consider that as demeaning their personal intellectual ability/hard work. Secondly, it could also be simply grossly offensive, as the person may not actually be Jewish, but feel some characteristic is being ascribed to them. Thirdly, even if they are Jewish, they may quite properly consider it none of Mr Lamonby’s business.”
The case has caused some controversy because many of Prof Lamonby’s comments were, in his view, complimentary “positive stereotypes”. However, after the judgment Prof Lamonby complained that “You can’t make any comments [in universities] now because they are totally obsessed with racism and to talk about Jews in the context of racism is crazy because they are not even a race, they are an ethnicity.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has long called for universities to take action against academics who indulge in negative stereotypes and antisemitism. If a professor can be dismissed for promoting positive stereotypes, it stands to reason that those deliberately denigrating Jewish students or intimidating them should face the sack.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].