An employment tribunal has upheld a university’s decision to fire a lecturer who told a colleague that Jews were “the cleverest people” but that black and Lithuanian students “need extra help”.
Stephen Lamonby, 73, an engineering lecturer at Solent University in Southampton, argued that he should not have been dismissed in June last year for “positively stereotyping” Jews, but dons disagreed, saying it was still racist.
During the tribunal in Bristol, Lamonby accused complainant Dr Janet Bonar of “weaponising hurt feelings” after she reacted angrily to his comments on race and nationality, including his view that “Germans are good at engineering”. During his investigation meeting, he said: “Eskimos are good at fishing through ice”.
On her telling him that she had a degree in Physics, he said that, in his “experience, a capability in physics is a particular gift enjoyed by some Jewish people,” listing Albert Einstein as an example.
He said Bonar “did not respond well” when he asked if she was Jewish, stating: “I believe that the Jewish are the cleverest people in the world. They are much maligned because of it. I asked if you were Jewish because of your ability with maths/physics etc. which is a specialty of theirs.”
In cross-examination, he said that he was “excited to think she might be one of them, excited to meet a Jewish physicist, who had been my heroes since boyhood”.
At the investigation meeting he referred to having worked in the film industry “which is largely Jewish” and in reference to the Manhattan Project to develop a nuclear bomb, said “they [Jews] have a special mind”.
Lamonby said he had been “clumsy to enquire [of] her [Bonar’s] ethnicity” and suggested he be given a formal written warning instead, but the tribunal said the university was within its rights to dismiss him for gross misconduct.