Calls have been made for SOAS University of London director Adam Habib to resign over his use of the N-word in a meeting with students.
According to The Guardian, a meeting was held between students and Habib over the use of the N-word in class by lecturers. In the meeting, which was held on March 11, students raised the issue of the word’s use. According to a transcription of the fragmented recording of the meeting, which The Guardian published sections of, a student is quoted as asking, “How can SOAS issue statements about Black Lives Matter while allowing lecturers to say the N-word in class?”
In a fragmented response, Habib replied, “The issue around that is, I personally on the [N-word], somebody making that allegation, then just bring it to me. I don’t know the case.”
A student then interjects to ask: “It’s been used by lecturers and, historically, has been ignored when students have raised it, and now you have just used it in a public meeting with students. Like many students have been saying, I find it unacceptable myself that you have used that word in a meeting. Absolutely unacceptable.”
Another student then adds: “I’m sorry but you are not a Black man, you can’t use that word.”
Habib, who was born in South Africa, responds: “You do [find it unacceptable], I don’t actually. I come from a part of the world where we actually do use the word.”
When challenged by a Black student who said he shouldn’t use the word, Habib then added: “I’m sorry I offended you. I come from a part of the world when somebody uses it, the context matters. What I was trying to simply say is that if you find it offensive, I’m sorry.”
After the meeting was concluded, students began to suggest Habib should resign from his post at the university.
He later took to Twitter to issue his defence, saying: “So why don’t I think it was problematic to use the word when I did? Well, because context matters and I was arguing for taking punitive action. You cannot impute maligned intention without understanding context. Do I believe that only blacks can verbalise the word? No, I don’t.”
He added: “I am aware that this is a common view among activists committed to an identitarian politics. I don’t identify with this political tradition. I grew up in a political tradition that is more cosmopolitan oriented and more focused on the class dimensions of structural problems.”
Later—in an email to SOAS staff and students—Habib apologised, saying, “I do now recognise the hurt and distress that has been caused and will continue to listen.” But he remained adamant that there was an issue of context that was being misrepresented.
You can read Habib’s full statement here.