SOAS staff back vote of no confidence in Prof Adam Habib amid racism row

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Adam Habib
Adam Habib
Denzil Maregele, Gallo Images, Beeld
  • University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies staff have backed a vote of no confidence in Professor Adam Habib.
  • Habib is in hot water for using the N-word during a meeting with students.
  • He has since stepped aside as SOAS director until a probe is concluded.

Staff at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have backed a vote of no confidence in SOAS director Professor Adam Habib.

Habib, a former Wits University vice-chancellor, stepped aside while SOAS investigates allegations of racism against him. The move followed his use of the N-word in response to a question about lecturers using the word in class.

In a statement, SOAS said staff belonging to the SOAS Unison - a union representing some employees - had "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," the statement read.

Speaking to News24 on Friday, Habib said he was awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

READ | Adam Habib steps aside as SOAS director while 'N-word' probe is underway

"An investigation is underway and it must be undertaken in an impartial manner. I will await the findings and recommendations of that investigation," he said.

The union members called on the school to ensure that no student faces repercussions for challenging the director's use of the N-word, and to provide transparency regarding its handling of complaints following that meeting.

"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 statement said.

In an apology to students and staff on 12 March, Habib said no offence was intended by his use of the word. He added that he recognised he had caused hurt and offence despite the context.

Habib explained the context, saying: "During the meeting, a student questioned SOAS' responsiveness to anti-black racism and suggested that a staff member had used the word without consequences. I responded: 'If someone used the word [N-word] against another staff member, then it would violate our policy and action would be taken'."

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