The backlash against Prof Adam Habib, who recently stepped aside as director at the University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), pending an investigation, intensified this week.
In a statement on their website, SOAS Unison, a trade union for professional and support staff at the institution, said its members have overwhelmingly backed a vote of no confidence in Habib. A motion of no confidence was passed at an emergency general meeting of the Unison branch held on Tuesday, with 98% of members present voting in favour of the motion, 0% against, and 2% abstaining.
“Members also called on the school to ensure that no student faces repercussions for challenging the director’s use of the N-word in the all-student meeting of March 11 2021, and to provide transparency regarding its handling of complaints after that meeting,” the statement read.
“The branch also called on the school to take urgent steps, in consultation with the Equalities and Black Members reps of the campus trade unions, Students’ Union, and Art and The African Mind Society, to address the serious concerns that have been raised regarding anti-black racism within the school.”
The institution is investigating the incident, which arose when the former Wits university vice-chancellor used the “N-word” in full during an online meeting with students.
Habib did so in response to concerns that lecturers had used the slur and that complaints from black students had been ignored. He said: “The issue around that … first, on the n*****, somebody making that allegation, then bring it to me. I don’t know the case, this is the first I’ve heard of it.”
Some of the students reacted angrily, with one saying only black people could use the word.