adam habib

SOAS union members vote no confidence in director Adam Habib

The SOAS director has ‘stepped aside’ after saying the n-word in a meeting

Members of SOAS Unison, one of the university’s large trade unions, have backed a vote of no confidence in SOAS Director Adam Habib at an Emergency General Meeting this week.

The motion was supported overwhelmingly, with 98 per cent of staff voting in favour and the other two per cent abstaining from voting.

This follows a cross-union statement from UCU, Unison and SOAS Student’s Union that condemned Habib’s use of the n-word in an All Student Meeting on the 11th March, calling his behaviour “intolerable” and “unacceptable”.

In addition to the vote of no confidence, SOAS Unison has also “called on the school to ensure that no student faces repercussions for challenging the directors use of the n-word” and to “address the serious concerns that have been raised regarding anti-black racism within the school”.

The SOAS Director has “stepped aside” while an external investigation takes place to examine the meeting in which he used the n-word, and then attempted to justify its use after students spoke out saying it was unacceptable.

The Black student body of the Art and African Mind society have called for Habib’s resignation and/or dismissal with the online petition #FireHabib. This came after the director “took to Twitter to deny any wrongdoing”, according to the cross-union statement published a day after the incident.

Habib has now “apologised unreservedly” for his behaviour, however concerns over SOAS’ “systemic racism” have been raised by the SOAS Student’s Union.

The cross-union statement also highlights Habib’s “class reductionism” by “claiming that his own position is instead informed by class dimensions”, and references the wider “structural racism that pervades the British university sector of which SOAS is a part”.

It says that there are “serious ongoing issues at SOAS” that include “Black students’ wellbeing” among “university fees”, the “awarding gap” and “surveillance”, which require “unflinching commitment from everyone, including the leaders of the institution.”

The statement then says: “This incident throws into question whether our director Adam Habib is fit to meet such challenges”.

A statement from Marie Staunton, the Chair of Board of Trustees, says that SOAS “has to be – and be seen to be – committed to anti-racism”, and outlines steps that SOAS is taking to address the issues raised in the student meeting in addition to the external investigation on Habib.

Professor Claire Ozanne, the Deputy Director and Provost at SOAS, will serve as Interim Director while Habib “steps aside” during the investigation.

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