The University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) students are protesting against director Adam Habib’s reinstatement.
SOAS in March asked Habib to step aside from his role to allow a full investigation into his use of the N-word during a webinar with students.
“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,” said Marie Staunton, chairperson of the SOAS board of trustees in a statement at the time.
Following an investigation, the university announced last week that Habib would resume his director duties from today.
Recommendations from the investigation included 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 and students and SOAS leadership and providing specific advice and support for the director on equality and diversity issues in the higher education sector.
The report of the investigation was, however, critical of his response to students at the meeting and in his subsequent tweets.
In his defence after being called out by the students at the time, Habib claimed to have come “from a part of the world where people used the word”.
The report further found that Habib’s mistake of vocalising the N-word, while trying to say that using the word offensively is unacceptable, did not in itself make him a racist.
“I want to be clear especially on the use of the N-word: the report notes that the director spoke the word in full while trying to say that it should not be used in the SOAS community and that he has since acknowledged that speaking the word in full was a mistake, for which he has apologised,” said Staunton.
In a protest led by the Black Student Body, students argued that Habib’s reinstatement “directly goes against the demands of students and staff who have passed motions with overwhelming majorities calling for his removal”.
See yall tomorrow @ SOAS steps 1 pm.
Art and the African Mind Rally against Habib, the investigation outcome and SOAS.
— Art and the African Mind (@soasatam) May 9, 2021
The student body said it found his reinstatement “patronising”, “retraumatising” and “ignorant” of the students’ pain.
— staying home but I’d rather be namjooning (@shaaziaebrahim) May 10, 2021
“We do not accept the board of trustees’ investigation results. We do not trust the board. We do not trust SOAS as an institution to protect black students and safeguard their wellbeing. We do not accept Adam Habib as director,” said the student body in a statement.