SOAS Director who used ‘n-word’ found not guilty of racism

Adam Habib will be resuming his duties as Director from Monday 10th May


An external investigation into SOAS director Adam Habib has found him not guilty of being a racist.

In March, the SOAS Board of Trustees announced an external investigation after director Adam Habib used the n-word at a student meeting. The investigation was led by Judy Clements OBE and Dr Marie Steward MBE.

All recommendations put forward have been accepted by SOAS Board of Trustees.

Adam Habib will be resuming his duties as Director from Monday 10th May, with the understanding that a number of actions are being put into place to improve the experience of students at SOAS. The actions being taken include:

• Putting in place a restorative justice approach for the meeting of 11 March and events arising

• Developing a clear policy for the SOAS community on the use of the n-word

• Continuing to take forward the process of dialogue between the SOAS community of staff & students and SOAS leadership

• Providing specific advice and support for the Director on equality, diversity issues in the HE sector

• Producing in due course a statement from the Board on lessons learned from this experience and regular reporting to the SOAS community

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Marie Staunton, highlighted that the outcomes of the investigation are important to both the SOAS community and SOAS as an institution, stating: “We acknowledge the pain and distress caused to many in our community – and we thank everyone for their engagement with the independent investigation. We are taking this opportunity to apologise again to all those who have been so affected and distressed by these events.”

Staunton went on to say: “We want to ensure members of the SOAS community who are affected by these events continue to be given appropriate avenues of support…we reaffirm that SOAS is committed to anti-racism, to tackling hate and anti-Blackness, to bringing people together and to listening and learning throughout life. It is important that we move forward collectively as an institution now in the best interests of everyone in the SOAS community.”

While the investigation found Habib not guilty of being a racist, the board was critical of his use of the n-word and response to students at the meeting and in his subsequent tweets. The board noted that “the Director spoke the word in full while trying to say that it should not be used within the SOAS community, and that he has since acknowledged that speaking the word in full was a mistake, for which he has apologised.”

Adam Habib’s tweets after he used the n-word during a student meeting

In a statement after the board meeting Habib said: “I accept the judgements of the independent investigation unreservedly. I completely support their recommendations, and the Board’s decisions on how this will be taken forward. I commit to implementing them under their guidance.

“I want to again apologise to all the SOAS community for my conduct, for the offense and hurt, and for the disruption this has caused.

“I reiterate my commitment to act against all forms of racism, and to work with the SOAS community in identifying and fashioning specific interventions to address the exclusionary experiences of black people and other communities within the institution.

“There is a lot to do to rebuild from this. There is action to be taken to address racism and anti-Blackness. I believe we can and should do this together. I understand why some in our community will take a long time to trust me. I promise I will do all I can to re-earn your trust and respect.”

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• UCL Provost Michael Spence says students need to be taught how to ‘disagree well