Letter from Nadje Al-Ali

Dear Paul,

Thank you for having taking the time to talk to us and answer some of our questions yesterday.

I am personally convinced – and I am sure many of my colleagues agree with me – that you genuinely care about SOAS and its future. The way I read your talk it is also clear that you are opposed to the way the government chose to react to the economic crisis, especially I terms of the cuts to higher education. It seems to me that we are in such a serious crisis situation, not only at SOAS but within the whole sector (and possibly the whole country) that we  all need to pull together and use our respective capabilities and resources to protest, resist but also, crucially, suggest alternative ways forward.  We do need students protesting, we need academics to come out as well and show their opposition to the cuts and to the fee model, but also use their expertise and visions to come up with innovative, creative and feasible ways to deal with changes and crisis, and we need Vice-Chancellors to engage in both public and more back door lobbying.

I read the demands of our students. They sound very reasonable. Whatever Governing Body decided, the fact is that occupations have always been part of SOAS protest culture. They existed when I was a student in the 90s, long before that, and I suspect they will always exist. And there are different ways to occupy. This time the students were very careful not to invade people’s work spaces directly, not to intimidate anyone, and also explicitly engage in non violent direct action.

Paul, I really don’t think that you would lose face or respect if you were to talk directly to the students at this point. Quite the opposite. Many of us would see this as a sign of strength if you would show flexibility and the ability to compromise without having to give up your principles. The students involved in this occupation have clearly made a huge effort to stay polite and respectful.  Let’s show them some respect as well. At least go to
talk to them and see whether you can come to a mutually acceptable agreement which will not only end the occupation before the weekend, but will also allow us all to pull together, try to see how we can build some critical mass and show some vision.

best wishes,
Nadje

NB. Nadje Al-Ali agreed to have her letter posted on our blog.

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