SOAS director to ‘step aside’ whilst meeting where he used n-word is ‘investigated’

An investigation into the meeting was announced yesterday


SOAS director Adam Habib is to “step aside” whilst an “investigation” into the student meeting where he used the n-word takes place.

Yesterday, the SOAS Board of Trustees announced an external investigation following complaints it received regarding the incident.

Last week, during an All Student Meeting, the university’s director Adam Habib used the n-word in response to a question about structural issues at the university. When students told him this was not acceptable, he attempted to justify its use.

SOAS SU condemned Habib’s use of the n-word, calling it “unacceptable” and “disgusting”. Students signed an online petition entitled #FireHabib calling Habib’s calling for his “resignation and/or dismissal” within the next 31 days.

Habib wrote to all SOAS staff and students to “apologise unreservedly”, saying: “I do now recognise the hurt and distress that has been caused and will continue to listen.” Yesterday he said he was “mortified” at the incident.

Today, Marie Staunton, Chair of SOAS Board of Trustees, has agreed with Adam Habib he will “step aside as of today” whilst “this investigation takes place, so as not to compromise the investigation”.

Professor Claire Ozanne, currently Deputy Director and Provost at SOAS, will serve as Interim Director.

As well as the investigation, the university announced yesterday a number of steps it is taking to address anti-racism, after issues were raised at the meeting.

The full statement from Marie Staunton says: “In our statement of Tuesday 16 March 2021, we set out a series of actions that are now taking place, including an independent external investigation by Judy Clements OBE.

“As Chair of the Board, I have agreed with Director Adam Habib that he will step aside while this investigation takes place, so as not to compromise the investigation.

“We are affirming that all the actions set out in the Board statement on Tuesday continue to be taken forward. We will continue to find ways to facilitate the mediated conversations and engagement – including with Adam – that centre the Black community and the SOAS community broadly, in ways that also do not compromise the process of the investigation.

“Adam will step aside as of today, ahead of the commencement of the investigation and until the conclusion of the process.

“Day-to-day running of SOAS is being handed over to Professor Claire Ozanne, who will serve as Interim Director. Claire is currently Deputy Director and Provost at SOAS and plays a key role in providing academic and strategic leadership.”

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