Statement from Feminist Academics & Activists Concerning Dr Lee Salter, the University of Sussex, and Institutionalised Misogyny in British Higher Education

The We Want Truth, Goldsmiths has endorsed and stands in solidarity with the statement that the Justice4Sanaz campaign, feminist academics and activists put together concerning Dr Lee Salter and institutionalised misogyny at the University of Sussex. The statement has already gathered over 200 signatures and growing. Please continue to share the statement and let us collectively make sure that Dr Salter is barred from teaching at any academic institution- whether in the UK or around the world!

We Want Truth, Goldsmiths

We Want Truth, Goldsmiths stands in solidarity with this statement from feminist academics and activists concerning Dr Lee Salter at the University of Sussex. What joins our campaign to this shocking case is that far too often, institutional structures mean enormous barriers for women who come forward to challenge sexual harassment at universities and that it is abhorrent how often universities work to protect the perpetrators rather than the victims.

Please see the full statement here: https://justice4sanaz.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/statement-from-feminist-academics-activists-concerning-dr-lee-salter-the-university-of-sussex-and-institutionalised-misogyny-in-british-higher-education/

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Statement from Feminist Academics & Activists Concerning Dr Lee Salter, the University of Sussex, and Institutionalised Misogyny in British Higher Education

The Justice4Sanaz campaign along with feminist academics and activists have put together this statement in relation to the recent revelation concerning domestic assault committed by Dr Lee Salter, a senior lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Sussex. Please find the full statement enclosed below. We invite academics and activists from around the world to sign and take a stance against institutional misogyny within British higher education.

 

On Friday 12th August 2016, The Independent published a piece indicating that Dr Lee Salter, a senior lecturer in Media and Communications at the University of Sussex (UK) gruesomely assaulted his partner and former student, Ms Allison Smith earlier this year. The piece further explained that Dr Salter had “punched in the face [Ms Smith], knocked out and stamped on, [….] had salt poured into her eyes and ears.” The photographs that were published in The Independent’s piece speaks volumes about the horrific violence and trauma that Dr Salter inflicted upon Ms Smith.

Despite pleading his innocence, Dr Salter was convicted on the 13th July 2016 of assault by beating and causing criminal damage to belongings at Brighton Magistrates’ Court. Dr Salter received a 22-week jail sentence suspended for 18 months, was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and issued with a restraining order not to contact Ms Smith. The light sentence that Dr Salter received speaks of the disproportionality in how Black, Asian and minority ethnic British (BAME) are treated within the British criminal justice system versus that of a white man with professional status.

What is truly telling in this case is the woefully callous and negligent response from the University of Sussex. During the 10-month period between his arrest and conviction, Dr Salter was permitted to teach, despite the fact that the university was aware that he had committed a violent crime against Ms Smith. Meanwhile, it was reported that Ms Smith was so traumatised by the gross maltreatment and abuse that she received from Dr Salter that she was too afraid to leave her house.

Despite the fact that Dr Salter was convicted of assault by beating, he continued to remain on the payroll of the University of Sussex. It was only when The Independent began to pose further questions that Dr Salter’s employment status changed. He was suspended from teaching by the University of Sussex around the time when The Independent went public with case. As a result of the tremendous public outcry, as evident from a Change.org petition that was set up on the 12th August 2016, that has amassed over three thousand signatures and growing, did the University of Sussex finally terminate Dr Salter’s employment.

Counsellors who supported Ms Smith during the trial indicated that the University of Sussex had displayed a “concerning lack of care for the safety and welfare of its students”. Gail Gray, chief executive of RISE, a domestic abuse charity in Brighton, UK said that the abuse inflicted upon Ms Smith, “…is not a romantic ‘Educating Rita’ scenario. This is about a man who abused and exploited his position of power and authority to perpetuate domestic abuse.”

While the British media fixates on the fact that Ms Smith was a former student at the University of Sussex, we must also stress that the gruesome abuse that he committed would be no less so if the victim had been a sex worker or in any other consensual relationship with him. Dr Salter used his professional status in order to cultivate an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with a young woman, while the University of Sussex colluded by keeping silent about this abuse in order to protect its reputation and image as a progressive institution. In protecting Dr Salter, the University of Sussex committed gross negligence in terms of procedures concerning sexual harassment and gendered violence, endangering the lives of all cisgender and trans women and putting their personal safety at grave risk by continuing to allow him to teach.

As we have seen before, it is not uncommon for institutions, be they political organisations, governmental bodies, schools and universities, and companies to actively use bureaucratic structures to maintain silence concerning sexual harassment and gendered violence in the workplace.

The Trade Union Congress of England and Wales (TUC) recently found from a survey of 1,500 women, more than half of women respondents have been sexually harassed at work. The same study also found that some 79% of women who were victims of sexual harassment did not tell their employers. 24% of those who had been victims of workplace sexual harassment declined to report abuse because they felt that they would not be believed or taken seriously while 20% said that they were too embarrassed. The head of the TUC, Frances O’Grady added, “I think the most worrying fact from these findings is the number of women who simply don’t feel able to report [sexual harassment].”

In the case of universities, when women have come forward to challenge sexual harassment on campus, they have been met with enormous barriers and hurdles as a result of bureaucratic structures that work to protect the perpetrators of sexual violence, not the victims. It is understandable that victims of sexual violence are afraid to come forward- precedent has shown time and again that an institution will close ranks to protect the perpetrators of sexual violence, especially those who occupy senior lecturers and professorship positions. Early this June, Professor Sara Ahmed resigned from her position at Goldsmiths, University of London, citing cases of sexual harassment committed by her former colleagues to students that were repeatedly ignored by university officials. As Professor Ahmed stated,

“When I talk about the problem of sexual harassment I am not talking about one rogue individual, or two, nor even a rogue unit, nor even a rogue institution. We are talking about how sexual harassment becomes normalised and generalised- as part of academic culture.”

What Professor Ahmed alludes to is exactly the same as what Paula Nicolson, emeritus professor of health and social care at Royal Holloway University said over a year ago, following misogynistic comments made by Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt against women scientists at a the World Conference of Science Journalists in June 2015, where he stated:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.”

After much protest by women scientists that elicited the viral hashtag, #DistractinglySexy, mocking Sir Hunt’s sexist remarks, did University College London decide not to reinstate him as an honorary professor. In the aftermath, Professor Nicolson recalled the daily sexual harassment that she and women students experienced within British university culture, which included, “…the use of gratuitous images of overweight, underdressed women or unnecessary comments about female patients in lectures.”

Professor Nicolson recalled during a “another all-male meeting”, where a “senior male chair started joking about the physical appearance of a female singer, and others joined in. They seemed to treat it as a bonding experience. Anti-women remarks and behaviours occur in many such formal situations.”

If a woman objects to misgoynistic comments in the Ivory Towers, Professor Nicolson indicates that a woman lecturer may “risk making powerful enemies.” It is precisely the fear of making “powerful enemies” that keeps most cisgender and trans women scholars who have experienced sexual harassment and gendered violence in the closet, afraid of losing their jobs and what little professional security that they may have.

Recently a campaign has been set up called We Want Truth, Goldsmiths, comprised of a group of students independently investigating the sexual-harassment cover-ups at Goldsmiths, University of London. There would be no need for such campaigns if institutions actually followed their procedures regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, instead of colluding to protect and/or ignoring sexual violence within the Ivory Towers.

But sexual harassment and violence committed within universities are just one aspect of the way misogyny is institutionalised. The intersection between institutional misogyny, neoliberalism, racism, and the exploitation of women in British higher education is plainly and painfully evident in the following statistics. The 2011 Equality in Higher Education report found that 76% of all UK professors are white men. Despite numerous equality initiatives, women lecturers in British higher education continued to be paid £6,103 less than their male colleague per year. More women and especially Black women and women of colour find themselves in casualised academic positions, repeatedly denied the opportunity for secure and permanent full time employment. As the Why Is My Curriculum White? campaign has often stated, out of 18,500 professors in the UK, only 85 are Black and of those only 17 are Black women. This sobering statistic illustrates the embedded misogynoir and woeful levels of discrimination in British higher education that continue to marginalise and isolate Black and women of colour academics and researchers.

At a time when cisgender and trans women, particular Black and women of colour, such as Sisters Uncut, are fighting against the British state’s misogynistic laws and policies that work against working class and migrant women, the battle against and opposition to institutional misogynistic violence within British higher education needs to be taken up with renewed strength..

We as academics, activists, independent researchers, and most importantly as feminists strongly believe that it should not have taken over ten months and a national media story to have prompted the termination of Dr Salter’s employment at the University of Sussex. We also believe that the University of Sussex is equally at fault for allowing Dr Salter to resume his teaching and pastoral duties in light of the fact that they knew he had committed a violent assault, in particular to one of their students, endangering other cisgender and trans women. We additionally demand the following:

1. We strongly demand that Dr Salter not be hired to teach at any other university, whether in the United Kingdom or abroad. We also demand the following

2. That the University of Sussex and other British universities revisit and thoroughly revise their procedures of dealing with gendered violence and sexual harassment.

3. We demand that all British universities conduct thorough background checks on prospective employees to include asking prospective employees references about any inappropriate conduct of the person and specifically about sexual harassment and/or assault.

We pledge to set up a nationwide independent coalition against sexual harassment and gendered violence in universities to investigate these matters fully, including institutional transparency and accountability and information-sharing openly within and across institutions. This would include developing a nationwide support network for students and university staff who experience gendered violence and sexual harassment

 Please sign and share this statement via a Google Form that has been set up here: https://goo.gl/forms/xAZzMCSXWh8c9Xh82

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What We’ve Been Up To…

It has been a frantic few weeks for the Justice4Sanaz campaign and we’ve been busy on on toes. After the successful #UnisResistBorderControls event campaign launch that we co-organized with SOAS Students’ Union, we are now coordinating long-term actions that we hope will provide non-EU international students, academics, and university workers with much needed help and support to oppose the neoliberalized and xenophobic structures dominating British higher education.

Sanaz will be attending Campaign Bootcamp 6 this Saturday. She was selected as the recipient of the Shami Chakrabati Scholarship for BME Campaigners. Sanaz had to post-pone attending Campaign Bootcamp 5 in October 2015 because of health problems. We are delighted Sanaz is in good health and will joining 30 other campaigners from all over the world, including our friend and supporter, disabled-rights campaigner, Eleanor Linsey, in London to learn better techniques for managing the Justice4Sanaz campaign and the new initiative we are working on with other grassroots activists, #UnisResistBorderControls. We are excited for Sanaz! Additionally, she will be doing short vlogs during her week at Campaign Bootcamp.

Here is a brief run-down of what Justice4Sanaz has accomplished in the past two months…

Right after the #UnisResistBorderControls event, Sanaz gave her solidarity to our friend and fellow activist, Luqman Onikosi. On the 9th March 2016, students and activists, part of the #DontDeportLuqman campaign occupied Bramber House at the University of Sussex united against the racist border controls that may very well cost Luqman his life.


On Saturday 12th March 2016, Justice 4 Sanaz joined Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary, No Borders Leeds, Fighting Against Casualisation in Education, Sisters Uncut along with many other groups around the country at Surround #YarlsWood demonstration: Detention Centres SHUT THEM DOWN!

Photos from the demo can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/sanaz.raji/media_set?set=a.10153366705260843.1073741887.720995842&type=3

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Sanaz Raji at the Surround Yarl’s Wood demo on Saturday 12th March 2016. Photo by Mark Kerrison.

Sanaz also attended an Alternative Academia Workshop at Goldsmiths, University of London on the 17th April 2016, and met many other academics also finding ways to combat and resist against marketized and neoliberalized educational structures.

Additionally, Sanaz was also present at the National Demo-Bring Cleaners In-House at SOAS, University of London, supporting the SOAS Justice For Cleaners 10 year campaign as non-EU migrant labors to be paid and treated with respect and dignity. The #UnisResistBorderControls published this statement in solidarity with the demo. Sanaz spoke at the protest and reminded the crowd that border controls and surveillance permeates every corner of university life for non-EU international students, academics, and university workers. When Sanaz mentioned what happened in 2009, when SOAS management called in UKVI for a surprise raid on cleaners who were a part of the SOAS Justice For Cleaners campaign, with 9 activists consequently deported, the crowd began to shout, “Shame, shame, shame!”


Finally, we’d like to thank the Right to Remain campaign and Newcastle’s Beyond Borders group for organizing the Northern Gathering of migrant-rights activists on the 30th April 2016. Campaigners and activists from Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, and Newcastle attended and shared their ideas for building better networks and actions. It was a fantastic day and we made great links with some fantastic activists and community groups!

Many thanks again to those who have continued to donate to this campaign. We are looking forward to the new initiatives that we are involved with and thank everyone for being so incredibly supportive! As ever, #‎TearDownBordersNotBrightThinkers‬!!!

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#UnisResistBorderControls Meeting and Statement

For the last two months the Justice4Sanaz campaign has been working with SOAS Students’ Union to bring about an event to discuss and create meaningful and sustainable discussion  and action with other anti-racist, migrant rights grassroots campaigners and groups around the situation concerning non-EU international students, academics, and university workers within the neoliberal university system. Recently a study funded by Universities UK and other official higher education bodies claim that non-EU international students are happy with their learning experience in the UK. However, these studies are done not to help create better learning environments for non-EU international students.  They are designed to prop up and support the neoliberal higher education system that exploits and treats non-EU international students as cash cows, while giving them  very limited and/or no recourses to fight back against the growing injustices that we see both by the Conservative government currently in power and by universities.

From 2012 until now, there have been consistent attacks on non-EU international students by this present Conservative government- whether it be by taking away the post-study work visa option, which allowed non-EU graduates two years to stay and work in the UK, subjecting non-EU international students, especially those who are Black and PoC under humiliating and inhumane surveillance  by both UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) and PREVENT, making non-EU migrants (students included) pay a NHS surcharge, and subjecting non-EU international students to further racism and discrimination by granting landlords the ability to check on the immigration status of their tenants. In addition, while activists and campaigners are addressing the woeful institutionalised racism inside British higher education, there is still very little discussed about how institutionalised racism and xenophobia affects Black and PoC who are non-EU international students and university workers.

#UnisResistBorderControls had their first meeting on Saturday 5th March at SOAS, University of London. We were joined by  Save Kelechi campaign, The Campaign to Stop the Deportation of Luqman Onikosi, Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary, Fighting Against Casualisation in Education, and the SOAS Justice For Cleaners campaign.

A program from the #UnisResistBorderControls discussion and talks can be found below.

Some photos from the event.

Having various campaigners and groups coming together to specifically discuss the various issues surrounding non-EU international students, scholars and university workers was a crucial step into hopefully putting together some concrete action plans in the next couple of months. Bryony Poynor, an barrister at Garden Court Chambers in London, specializing in immigration law, who was a guest speaker at #UnisResistBorderControls meeting indicated that she would be interested in helping to put together a “know your legal rights” pamphlet for non-EU international students and university staff. We will be exploring this initiative and brainstorming other ideas in the next few weeks.

Post #UnisResistBorderControls meeting, we decided to put together a statement concerning the treatment of non-EU international students, scholars and university workers. This statement was published on Media Diversified and initially endorsed by 41 academics and activists, including members of Fighting Against Casualisation in Education, No Borders Leeds, and the Green Party of England & Wales. Since being published last Wednesday, many other academics and activists have since come to endorse the statement. We would like to acknowledge everyone who has signed the statement. Please find the statement and the full list of signatures below.

Statement by #UnisResistBorderControls Concerning the Treatment of Non-EU International Students, Scholars, and University Workers

On Saturday 5th March, the Justice4Sanaz campaign along with SOAS Students’ Union hosted, #UnisResistBorderControls, a day of discussions and workshops around the treatment of non-EU international students and precarious migrants within higher education. #UnisResistBorderControls came about due to the lack of discussion and action within mainstream student activism around the particular situations af

fecting non-EU international students and migrant workers, especially those who are Black, Muslim, and people of colour (PoC). The discussions and workshops looked to address the ways in which the intersection of UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI)  and now PREVENT surveillance is used to criminalise, restrict and oppress our bodies.

The racist and xenophobic border controls of Fortress Europe and Fortress Britain –  which are responsible for the drowning deaths of countless numbers of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing violence, often because of or exacerbated by British, EU, and US foreign policy; as well as the imprisonment of migrants in detention centres like Yarl’s Wood or Harmondsworth, where they are  inhumanly treated, denied medical care, and sexual violated – are also being used inside British universities, to the detriment  of non-EU international students, scholars and university workers.  

Since the Conservatives came to power, the punitive culture and policy of border controls targeting non-EU international students, scholars, and university workers is plainly and abundantly evident. In 2012, London Metropolitan University lost its visa sponsorship license, requiring non-EU international students to find another university to continue their studies within 60 days, or face imminent deportation. In the same year, the post-study work visa option, allowing recent non-EU international student graduates two years to work in the UK, was abolished to make way for the very marketised graduate entrepreneur visa, requiring a non-EU student to present ‘genuine and credible’ business ideas. In 2013, it was found that Ulster University and Sunderland University had imposed biometric fingerprinting on non-EU international students to gather attendance data that was sent to the Home Office. Now, most if not all British higher education institutions use an electronic register that is sent to the Home Office to monitor the enrolment of non-EU international students.

The criminalisation of non-EU international students is also evident in other more insidious ways.  Academics are required to inform the Home Office if they have any suspicions that a non-EU international student is breaching the conditions of their leave to remain in the UK, or if the student is engaging in ‘suspicious behaviour.’ Putting academics on the front line as border and now thought police for UKVI and also PREVENT has detrimental effects on creating a space for learning and critical engagement, as recently echoed by an academic based at Birkbeck College who recently wrote anonymously, stating, “None of the government’s policies have been tested in this way.” A non-EU international student from the US summed it up best,

“The Home Office’s continued threats towards international students have created an Orwellian monitoring system that shreds the peace of mind and the sense of stability necessary for critical reflection and groundbreaking research. Such meddling undermines the mental wellbeing of young persons and mocks the vocation of people who came to this country to use its libraries and laboratories, and to learn.”

The Orwellian situation vis-a-vis non-EU international students is clearly seen in the case of Dr Paul Hamilton, a noted scholar of Shakespeare and a recent PhD graduate from the University of Birmingham, who spent ten days in a detention centre, and who condemned his treatment by the Home Office, as “completely brazen, cynical and unapologetic.”
We are seeing non-EU international students increasingly targeted by the Conservative government’s racist and xenophobic migration policy with British universities happily implementing these policies with very little opposition. Last week, Sussex University was occupied by student activists to oppose to how the university has colluded with UKVI to remove Luqman Onikosi, a disabled non-EU international student from Nigeria with a chronic liver condition, who would face death if removed from the UK; as Nigeria does not have the facilitates to care for his condition. Kelechi Chioba, another disabled non-EU international student from Nigeria, is currently battling with the Home Office to prevent her removal, where her family in Nigeria considers her “a curse and a source of shame” and people have previously tried to kill her. Even the newly elected National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland Asylum Seeker & Refugee officer, Lord Elias Mensah Apetsi, also a postgraduate student at Strathclyde University, is now facing deportation, having been detained by UKVI early in the morning on Saturday 19th March, and now currently in a detention centre.  Thanks to enormous public pressure, Apetsi was spared being removed from the UK last night on a scheduled charter flight to Ghana. However, many other refugees, asylum seekers, and also non-EU international students are less lucky, finding themselves battling both the Home Office and UKVI with very little support or help from institutions that could very well make the difference. We fail to understand why Sussex University Union has failed to emphatically support Luqman Onikosi and the #DontDeportLuqman campaign, or why both the Leeds University Union and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign have failed to support the Justice4Sanaz campaign? As Ananya Rao-Middleton recently wrote in relation to the lack of institutional support for non-EU international students,

“If we fail to provide…support to those who need it most […] we are allowing SUs to become neoliberal service providers, rather than platforms for student voices and sites of solidarity.”

Universities also institutionalize xenophobic immigration rules in order to unfairly disenfranchise and marginalize non-EU international students, scholars and university workers who fight against victimization, unfair dismissals, and institutional racism, thereby preventing them from seeking recourse for the injustices that they have faced. Often times, this affects primarily Black and PoC non-EU international students. In 2009 SOAS management called in UKVI for a surprise raid on cleaners who were a part of the SOAS Justice For Cleaners campaign, with 9 activists consequently deported. As the Justice4Sanaz campaign has shown through e-mails acquired by a Freedom of Information request, her former PhD supervisor was happy that Sanaz was facing visa problems, directly as a result of the University of Leeds which took close to a year to make a decision concerning her internal academic appeal, stating that she hoped Sanaz “fails” at remaining lawfully in the UK to see her campaign through. Just recently, a crowdfunding link has been circulating around social media concerning the plight of Dr Debojyoti Das, an academic researcher who was formerly based at Birkbeck College. Dr Das was unfairly made redundant when his PI moved the project he was employed at to Harvard University. Although Dr Das challenged the decision by Birkbeck College, as a non-EU international scholar, there was no redress for his unfair dismissal. Dr Das not only lost “his job, students, pension contribution and the academic space in the university” but he is now fighting to remain lawfully in the UK as he is married to a British citizen.

#UnisResistBorderControls wants to see a fundamental end to UKVI and PREVENT surveillance and intimidation of non-EU international students, scholars and university workers. We want to see universities and unions take a strong stand against such policies  and to cease using these racist and xenophobic measures to disenfranchise and marginalize non-EU international students, scholars, and university workers. We want to see provisions in place for non-EU internationals to be able to seek recourse against their higher education institutions without it affecting their visa-status and/or having their precarious immigration status repeatedly threatened.  We call on British students, lecturers and university workers to not collude or be complicit with the border controls culture on university campuses. #UnisResistBorderControls stands in solidarity with Luqman Onikosi (#DontDeportLuqman), Kelechi Chioba (#SaveKelechi), Lord Elias Mensah Apetsi (#SaveLord), Sanaz Raji (#Justice4Sanaz) and the many other non-EU international students, scholars and university workers who are not publicly known, but are both oppressed by Home Office violence and exploitation by their universities. End border controls and the culture of surveillance on our campuses!

  1. Luqman Temitayo Onikosi, University of Sussex
  2. Hayden Cooper, Exeter University – President of Exeter Socialist Students and Student Assembly Against Austerity National Committee Member
  3. Gwyneth Lonergan, University of Manchester
  4. Sanaz Raji, Campaigner and Independent Scholar, Justice4Sanaz campaign
  5. Dr Adi Kuntsman, Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University
  6. Ananya Rao-Middleton, M.Phil, University of Cambridge
  7. Daniel Renwick, writer and youth worker
  8. Caoimhe Mader McGuinness, PhD student QMUL
  9. Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, Senior Lecture, Sheffield Hallam University
  10. Margaret Corvid, journalist and sex worker
  11. Kelechi Chioba, Disabled Rep, NUS Black Students’ Campaign
  12. Afroze Zaidi-Jivraj, Editor, Media Diversified
  13. Lisa Matthews, Right to Remain
  14. Joe Haslam Mark, Student Assembly Against Austerity representative at Lancaster & Morecambe College
  15. Verusca Calabria, Nottingham Trent University and Oral History Society.
  16. Roqayah Chamseddine, Associate Editor of Hate Hurts
  17. Carlus Hudson
  18. Marina Yusupova, PhD candidate, University of Manchester
  19. Dr Catherine Baker, Lecturer, University of Hull
  20. Rick Burgess, Disabled Human Rights Activist.
  21. Franziska Dahlmeier, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  22. Chris Hilborne, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  23. Leandros Savvides, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  24. Marco Gottero, PhD candidate, De Montfort University
  25. Louis Goddard, PhD candidate, University of Sussex
  26. Manishta Sunnia, Green Party Equality & Diversity Coordinator.
  27. Sahra Taylor, Doctoral Researcher, City University
  28. Adie Mormech, Human Right’s Activist
  29. Tom Bolitho, Young Greens of England and Wales Co-Chair
  30. Hannah Clare, Young Greens of England and Wales Co-Chair
  31. Latefa Guemar, PhD candidate, University of East London
  32. Ruth Webber, PhD Students, University of Leicester
  33. Dr Fuad Ali, OtherAsias
  34. Members of No Borders Leeds
  35. Vanessa Vasic-Janekovic, Workers’ University, Tuzla/London
  36. Fighting Against Casualisation in Education (FACE)
  37. Irina Cheresheva, PhD student, University of Leicester
  38. Kalpana Wilson, London School of Economics
  39. Dr Damir Arsenijevic, Leverhulme Fellow, De Montfort University, Leicester
  40. Emma Carter, Green Party Finance Coordinator
  41. Doug Rouxel, Lecturer, Staffordshire University.
  42. Alessandra Mossa, Research Fellow, London School of Economics
  43. Sita Balani, PhD candidate, King’s College London
  44. Rachel Seoighe, Associate Lecturer, Middlesex University
  45. Mirjam Twigt, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  46. Christos Kostopoulos, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  47. Nicolas Vass, University of Leicester
  48. Alessandro Mancini, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  49. Stephanie Gordon, Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Leicester
  50. Foteini Panagiotopoulou, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  51. Joseph Leigh, PhD Candidate, London School of Economics
  52. Nerina Boursinou, PhD Candidate, University of Leicester
  53. Danilo Di Stefano, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  54. Sara Thornton, PhD candidate, University of Leicester
  55. Deepa Kurup, Mphil student, University of Oxford
  56. Secki P. Jose, Dphil candidate, Leicester University
  57. Jennifer Edmunds

 

If you would like to get involved in the #UnisResistBordersControls campaign, please e-mail: justice4sanaz(at)gmail(dot)com and we will put you on a FB private group set up since the 5th March meeting.

 

 

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Steven Salaita in Solidarity with Justice4Sanaz

Renowned American Indian studies professor, Dr. Steven Salaita has written a statement of solidarity with the Justice4Sanaz campaign. Salaita, the former University of Illinois lecturer who was fired over tweets he made concerning Israeli aggression in Gaza during the summer of 2014 Operation Protective Edge, where between 2,142 and 2,310 Gazans were killed and between 10,626 and 10,895  were wounded including 3,374 children, of whom over 1,000 were left permanently disabled.

Salaita’s case and year-long campaign, which included an academic boycott of over 1,200 scholars against the University of Illinois, showed the interplay between academic freedom, employment discrimination, and how intertwined pro-Zionist donors are within the US higher education structure that actively seek to limit and censor activists and scholars who are against Zionist settler colonialism.

It was later revealed during a FOI investigation that top officials tied to the University of Illinois had colluded to cover-up information concerning the reasons for Dr. Salaita’s termination. Additionally, one administrator had even destroyed what might be key evidence pertaining to the Salaita case. This, of course, is very familiar territory for the Justice4Sanaz campaign given our own FOI investigation in June 2014, which we found University of Leeds staff parading around racist, ableist and xenophobic language against Sanaz in e-mail correspondences of her supervisors and various members of the School of Media and Communication (formerly the Institute of Communications Studies) University of Leeds.

The Justice4Sanaz campaign reached out to Dr. Salaita over the summer 2015 and upon learning of Sanaz’s fight against the University of Leeds, he wrote:

“The indignities and injustices Sanaz Raji faced while at the University of Leeds exemplify the problems with racist societies, managerial callousness, and notions of immigrant expendability.  Because of her refusal to accommodate those problems, we have a stunning, though not altogether surprising, account of the ugliness that often underlies university bureaucracy.  This is a transatlantic problem, one that demands the sort of emphasis on class, gender, racial, and sexual justice that the campaign in support of Sanaz has so ably practiced.” 

Dr. Salaita joins 46 other prominent activists and academics who have come in solidarity with the the Justice4Sanaz campaign, which include:

  1. Baroness Haleh Afshar, Professor Emeritus, University of York
  2. Prof. Roger Bromley, Professor Emeritus of Culture Studies, University of Nottingham
  3. Dr. Tina Gharavi, Newcastle University & BAFTA nominated director for I am Nasrine
  4. Prof. Dagmar Schultz, Activist and Filmmaker, director of Audre Lorde, The Berlin Years, 1984 to 1992
  5. Dr. Yasmin Nair, Writer and Activist
  6. Prof. Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature Columbia University
  7. Prof. Pedram Khosronejad, Farzaneh Family Scholar and Associate Director for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the School of International Studies of Oklahoma State University
  8. Dr. Anandi Ramamurthy, Sheffield Hallam University
  9. Ananya Rao-Middleton, MPhil Candidate, University of Cambridge
  10. Gwyneth Lonergan, PhD Candidate, University of Manchester
  11. Sonia Soans, PhD Candidate, Manchester Metropolitan University
  12. Steve Graby, PhD Student, University of Leeds
  13. Anzir Boodoo, Independent Scholar
  14. Marina Yusupova, PhD Student, University of Manchester
  15. Corine Dhondee, Independent Filmmaker and Activist
  16. Dr. Adi Kuntsman, Manchester Metropolitan University
  17. Dr. Say Burgin, University of Leeds
  18. Dr. Jennifer deWinter, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  19. Hamja Ahsan, Human Rights Activist
  20. Mark Boothroyd, Activist, Docs Not Cops Campaign
  21. Prof. Ian Parker, University of Leicester
  22. Haley McEwen, PhD student, University of the Witwatersrand
  23. Prof. Golbarg Bashi, Pace University
  24. Dr. Fuad Ali, University of Greenwich
  25. Dr. Onur Suzan Nobrega, Fellow of the ZEIT-Stiftung Hamburg
  26. Dr. Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Exeter
  27. Dr. Karma Chavez, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  28. Dr. Mahnaz Marashi, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  29. Dr. Anat Greenstein, Manchester Metropolitan University
  30. Dr. Katya Salmi, Independent Scholar
  31. Prof. Kevin Hylton, Leeds Becket University
  32. Marie Garlock, PhD Student, University of North Carolina
  33. Dr. Sima Shakshari, University of Pennsylvania
  34. Beeta Baghoolizadeh, PhD Student, University of Pennsylvania
  35. Naz Massoumi, PhD Student, University of Bristol
  36. Dr. Christine Chettle, Independent Scholar
  37. Antonia Bright, Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary
  38. Dr. Feras Alkabani, University of Sussex
  39. Dr. Waqas Tufail, Leeds Beckett University
  40. Dr. Federica Mazzara, Westminster University
  41. Prof. Yahya Kamalipour, North Carolina A&T State University
  42. Trenton Oldfied, Activist, This Is Not A Gateway
  43. Hilary Aked, PhD Student, University of Bath
  44. Dr. Donya Alinejad, VU University Amsterdam
  45. Ewa Jasiewicz, Activist
  46. Chaumtoli Huq, human rights lawyer, a former Associate Professor of Law at New York Law School, former general counsel for New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, Director of the first South Asian Workers’ Rights Project in the country at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the first staff attorney to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.

 

We thank Dr. Salaita for his solidarity. To learn more about the Salaita case, we encourage our supporters to purchase his book concerning the events and activism surrounding his termination by the University of Illinois, entitled Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom.

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Interview with Kelechi Chioba from the #SaveKelechi Campaign

Since August 2015, the Justice4Sanaz campaign has been blogging about supporting our friend and fellow activist, Kelechi Chioba. Chioba, an activist for both the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and the Disabled Students Campaign has been fighting a brave and courageous struggle to stop the Home Office from deporting her.

As her petition states,

“[Kelechi] came to study in the UK as a postgraduate student, having paid for her visa and fees herself through work which she had to plead her father to arrange for her in Nigeria so that she was able to pay for essentials. She was sexually abused in the workplace, which led to her attempting suicide in desperation. A friend advised her to apply to study in the UK. She came to the UK to escape the abuse, her mental health and disability worsened however, and whilst arriving needing only crutches she later became wheelchair-bound, which then led to cause damage in her arm meaning she is reliant on a electric wheelchair. Her brother and sister, who arrived in the UK before her have been caring for her, however she fears that returning to Nigeria would mean they would succumb again to the societal pressures and strong influence of culture and kinship in Nigeria that discriminates against disabled individuals.

Having to cover the costs of the wheelchair herself, financial hardship meant she could not complete her course. This made it impossible to apply for extra leave when her student visa ran out. Seeking help from the advice bureau on how to remain permanently, they told her she would need to give up her student status and make a fresh application that would now need to be made from Nigeria.

She made a human rights’ appeal for her case for fear of prosecution and discrimination, which was rejected by the Home Office. It is a human right that no one shall be subject to torture or inhuman treatment, and that everybody’s life should be protected by law. It is reprehensible that the government can say ‘there was nothing sufficiently serious in the family or private life circumstances that could possibly outweigh the need for immigration controls to be enforced’ when,  if she returns Kelechi fears that she will face further abuse, and be put in a psychiatric home. Having witnessed patients in psychiatric care being chained up and forced to take medication, she fears for her life.”

Sanaz recently visited Kelechi in Derby and interviewed her for the Justice4Sanaz blog. As a disabled women of color, Kelechi emphatically stated during the interview,

“I’m not the only one going through this. There are so many people out there in my situation. If you can lend your hands on anybody, don’t close your eyes and pretend as if you didn’t see the person. Help everyone! Anyone who is going through and immigration case, asylum case and is queer, and is disabled and is a woman of color will need you to support them.”

Kelechi also mentioned during the interview that her health has unfortunately worsen since the Home Office has stepped up its efforts in deporting her. She stated during the interview that she was recently sent to a psychiatric facility because she attempted to commit suicide again because of all the strain, anxiety and stress she has been under because of her asylum case.

We invite you to please watch and share the video

We also hope that our supporters will lend a hand to the #SaveKelechi campaign by doing the following:

1. Follow the #SaveKelechi campaign page on Facebook.

2. To sign the petition on Change.org that has been endorsed by over 1,000 supporters.

3. Donate any spare coins you have so that Kelechi can afford a solicitor on her asylum case.

4. Write a letter to your MP to support Kelechi’s efforts in remaining in the UK. You can use this template letter. You can locate your MP’s e-mail address via this link.

We hope to put together a fundraiser to help Kelechi with her campaign. Please e-mail us and let us know if you’d like to join us in this effort.

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FACE 2nd National Conference & Film Project

Before the end of the 2015 drew to a close, the Justice4Sanaz campaign was invited to give a opening panel talk at the Fighting Against Casualisation in Education 2nd National Conference (FACE) on Saturday 21st November at UCL. Since September, Justice4Sanaz and the FACE campaign have been working together to develop demands that address institutional racism and xenophobic practices within the British higher education. Working along side academic and activist, Xanthe Whittaker, Sanaz Raji helped to develop two working demands that you can read below:

“Universities Must Address The Racism & Racist Practices That Lead To the Casualisation of Black Staff & People of Colour In Universities

British higher education is institutionally racist, a fact which is reflected in the racial stratification of employment where Black people and people of colour (PoC) are less likely to be promoted to professorships than their white colleagues; are more likely to be on casual contracts and are most likely some of the most precarious workers in HE- working as cleaners, maintenance staff and in catering. Black and PoC academics find themselves with fever or no job opportunities, a lack of support for professional and career development, and over-scrutinised compared to their white colleagues- in some cases, thousands of pounds less. There are Black and PoC staff who have challenged this racism and have been forced out of their institutions. British universities must cease these colonial practices and stop privileging whiteness within hiring practices and the educational structure within institutions.

Universities Must Not Be Complicit In The Deportation & Harassment of Non-EU University Workers & Provide Security Of Work And Residency For Non-EU Staff

Universities are increasingly becoming sites of border enforcement. Where non-EU staff are on casualised contracts, it is extremely difficult for them to be shortlisted for positions and even gain working visas, despite offers of employment. Non-EU scholars are increasingly denied visas to attend academic conferences and work on collaborative projects with their British counterparts. There are several cases where non-EU workers in HE who speak out against racism or have actively organised in their workplace have had their migration status used to threaten and silence them. For example, in 2009 when SOAS cleaners were organising to improve their working conditions, university management allowed the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) on campus to conduct immigration checks on cleaning staff, resulting in the detention and deportation of nine staff. Universities must provide certainty of employment for non-EU workers and ensure that they are able to obtain the visas they require and ensure that casual workers are not deported when their working terms change or come to an end. And universities must not be complicit in the deportation of staff, neither should university staff be requited to enforce border regimes and threat of deportation should not become a way of victimising activists or disciplining non-EU staff.”

Sanaz also took part in the opening panel session at the FACE 2nd National Conference, which also including activists from FACE, South Africa’s #FeesMustFall campaign, SOAS and Warwick. At the opening panel session, Sanaz discussed the  victimization and bullying she was exposed to from staff at the School of Media and Communication (formerly the Institution of Communications Studies), University of Leeds, and transforming what had happened to her into a larger discussion and activism around institutional racism and xenophobia within British higher education among non-EU students of color. Sanaz also went into a discussion about the Office of the Independent Adjudicators for Higher Education (OIAHE), where more than half of all cases filed by students, 24% coming from non-EU international students alone, are strangely found “not justified,” meaning that they have no merit. Sanaz went on to describe the OIAHE as essentially protecting bad behavior and negligence within British higher education and shielding universities from changing unfair and discriminatory rules that shortchange and continue to victimize students, especially disabled, PoC and non-EU international students. She then stated that if the student movement is calling for free education, it should also invest as much time and effort calling for the OIAHE to be shut down, with a better, more fair adjudication policy put in place for all students that does not prop up and turn a cheek to the neoliberal university.  Lastly, Sanaz concluded her talk by highlighting the difficulties that non-EU students and workers alike have in organizing because of their precarious immigration status and how universities use this to push them out of the country without non-EU workers and students getting any justice for horrendous wrongdoing and abuse on the part of the institution.

Sanaz also chaired a session on Precarious Organising. This session focused on particular forms of workplace organizing around precarious labor. Amy Jowett, Jack Sanders and Henry Chango Lopez spoke on their experiences organizing and what sort of activism from their experience works best within a precarious workplace.

We invite you to read a post conference report written by FACE to familiarize yourself with what was discussed and if you have anything else to add to the list of demands that were discussed at the conference.

Attending and speaking at the the FACE 2nd National Conference rounds out a very eventful year of activism for the Justice4Sanaz campaign. To recap, from February-March 2015 we organized the Justice4Sanaz University Tour, that spoke at 7 British university campuses, including Oxford University. We took part in both the LSE and UAL Student Occupation in March 2015. Justice4Sanaz also took part in two protests (one in August, the other in November) for Surround Yarl’s Wood organized by Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary, supported non-EU students of color who have been victimized and discriminated against by various institutions, supported our friend and fellow activist, Kelechi Chioba, as she fights to remain in the UK, in addition to our support of homeless in the Ark Manchester and Manchester Palestine Action among other actions we took part in. The Justice4Sanaz campaign accomplished all of this, while Sanaz is still homeless and fighting herself to remain in the UK to continue her struggle to be vindicated by the racist abuse, bullying and negligence she encountered at the University of Leeds. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to the ongoing donation drive which has kept Sanaz and the campaign afloat.

For the start of 2016, the Justice4Sanaz campaign will be working on a film highlighting Sanaz’s struggle and that of many non-EU international students and workers in British higher education. The campaign is also going to explore more in-depth for the next couple of blog posts the FOI e-mails from the University of Leeds that were uncovered in June 2014 that was later discussed at length in this piece in Ceasefire Magazine.  We are also look forward to working with and supporting FACE, Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary, No Borders Leeds, and other Free Education and migrant rights groups in the next few months.

Again, we thank our supporters for all their help and solidarity with the Justice4Sanaz campaign. We are excited for 2016 and we hope to further the discussions and activism around the exploitative treatment of non-EU students and staff in British higher education.

 

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Season’s Greetings from Justice4Sanaz

Justice4Sanaz would like to wish a happy holiday season to all those who have supported the campaign throughout the year. Extra special thanks to our friends at Leeds No Borders, Manchester No Borders, Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary, Warwick Anti-Sexism Society, Wharf Chambers, and Fighting Against Casualisation in Education.

We hope that our supporters take the time to learn more about the Save Kelechi campaign underway and donate any spare coins to help Kelechi as she battles with the Home Office to remain in the UK. Already the campaign has raised more than £900, but they still need another £1,000 in order to cover Kelechi’s living and legal costs.

As ever, thank you for the love, care and solidarity that you have shown Sanaz. Without your generous and kind help, Sanaz and the campaign would not be able to continue! Wishing all our supporters all the very best for 2016!

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Update on the WIMCM? Leeds Launch Event

There has been a lull in blogging due to everyone on the campaign being busy as bees. Additionally Sanaz has been very unwell post FACE conference with the flu and a chest inflection that she is still recovering from.

In the meantime, the Justice4Sanaz campaign received a reply from the Leeds University Union (LUU) on the 11th November 2015 to our formal complaint concerning the violent treatment that both Sanaz and Tony received by security present at the Why is My Curriculum White? Leeds Launch event on the 26th October 2015.

The LUU letter, which you can see and read below:

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As usual, Leeds University Union stubbornly deflects any responsibility for the harm that Leeds University Security and LUU Student Executive put Black, PoC and non-EU international students in with the increased security of an all white security force at an event dubbed by LUU Education Officer, Melissa Owusu as a “safe space.”

We recently sent Ms Smith, the Director of Development at LUU a follow up to her 11th November correspondence, writing the following which we CCed to the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and the LUU Student Executive:

You claim that the heighten level of security was put in place due in part to the “potentially controversial topic” of the event and also because of the number of attendees that participated in the event. I have spoken to both Rachel Williams, Welfare Officer at King’s College London Student Union and to Hannah Slydel Co-President Democracy & Education at the School of Oriental and African Studies Student Union and they claim that it is extremely unusual to have such a heightened level of security present at an event questioning the increased securitisation oppressing Black, PoC and Muslim bodies. Likewise, I have attended talks deemed to be controversial at the University of Leeds, such as when Max Blumenthal spoke to a full audience of 200 attendees at the University of Leeds for the Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group on the 25th February 2015. Given pro-Zionist heckling and threats of violence at such talks given by Blumenthal in the past, one would think there would have been security present at that event. However, there was no security present at the Blumenthal talk. Similarly on the 27th January 2015, Prof. Jeanne Theoharis gave a talk, entitled, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” at the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre, Michael Sadler Building, to a packed audience of up to 400 people. Despite a discussion that included a conversation on racism and white supremacy- again very similar points made to what was discussed at the Why is My Curriculum White? event, there were no security present at this event.

Therefore, your argument that university security are present for events that are deemed “high profile” and/or “potentially controversial” does not hold any weight. As we stated in our previous correspondence to you on the 4th November, and once again reiterate again in this letter, we question Ms Melissa Owusu and the LUU Student Executive Board’s commitment to a safe space policy when inviting university security to observe the Why is My Curriculum White? event, who is, no doubt, working along side of the police to follow such xenophobic and racist measures like PREVENT, creates dangerous and unsafe spaces for Black, people of colour and non-EU international students to voice their concerns.

Additionally, in your letter, you state, “According to our democratic procedures the only action that can compel the Student Executive to support a campaign is if they have been mandated to do so by our students via our democratic process. I can confirm that support for the Justice4Sanaz campaign has never been submitted via these processes.” In our three years of meetings with the Student Executive Board, we have never been signposted to these procedures that you speak of. Furthermore, the Justice4Sanaz campaign finds it utterly bizarre and demeaning that you brand the campaign an “individual” matter, for as we know, racism, xenophobia, sexism, queer and transphobia, and ableism are very much institutionalised at the University of Leeds and are never individuals issues.”

The Justice4Sanaz campaign also send a letter of complaint to Malia Bouattia, the NUS Black Students’ Campaign Officer, CCing into the correspondence, NUS President, Megan Dunn, NUS VP of Welfare, Shelly Asquith, NUS VP of Union Development, Richard Brooks, NUS VP of Higher Education, Sorana Vieru, NUS VP of Society and Citizenship, Piers Telemacque, and NUS VP of Further Education, Shakira Martin. The letter was also endorsed by 20 academics and activists, including Dr Anandi Ramamurthy, Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Dr Karma R. Chavez, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin, Dr Adi Kuntsman, Manchester Metropolitan University, writer and activist, Dr Yasmin Nair followed by Shruti Iyer of the King’s College London Intersectional Feminist Society and Hayden Joshua Cooper, VP of the Exeter Socialist Students and Representative to the Student Assembly National Committee. The letter states:

Dear Ms Bouattia:

The Justice4Sanaz campaign writes this letter with utter disappointment and sadness at how you and fellow members of the NUS Black Students’ Campaign wilfully ignored motion 102a, Black International Students, and which specifically calls to “Support the Justice4Sanaz campaign” by instead refusing to mention the Justice4Sanaz campaign within your panel discussion at the Why is My Curriculum White? Leeds Launch (WIMCM? Leeds Launch).

The NUS BSC was CCed in a letter on the 4th November 2015 that was sent to the Leeds University Union and to members of the panel, including Dr Say Burgin and Mr Richard Tavernier that was endorsed by a number of academics and activists, including Dr Amrit Wilson from South Asian Solidarity Group, Carlus Hudson from Exeter Socialists Students, Amy Rafiq from Warwick Anti-Sexism Society, and Lily Hudson from the NUS Women’s committee. We have as yet to see an written apology from the NUS BSC for participating in the WIMCW? Leeds Launch while neglecting to speak about the Justice4Sanaz campaign and in turn, ignoring the Black International Students motion that was passed over a year ago.

We truly wonder about the NUS BSC’s resolve to support our campaign and specifically to support non-EU international Black and people of colour, especially when the NUS BSC has consistently and wilfully ignored giving a helping hand to the the Justice4Sanaz campaign. The Justice4Sanaz campaign feels incredibly let down and mistreated by not only the actions of Leeds University Union, but also the actions of the NUS BSC who refused to follow through with the very motion the passed over a year ago to support our campaign. How can the NUS BSC proclaim to care and address the growing racist xenophobia that is plaguing this country, and by extension, victimising refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and non-EU students, when you refuse time and again to give real and meaningful solidarity to Ms Raji, a disabled, WoC, non-EU international student, who has suffered cruel and exploitative treatment at the University of Leeds, and now with the Home Office.

Adding insult to injury, the Justice4Sanaz was shocked and disgusted to find many NUS officers acting in an unprofessional and harassing manner to Ms Raji on her Facebook when she raised in the official capacity why Ms Bouattia be participating in the WIMCW? Leeds Launch without inviting Justice4Sanaz to take part in the discussions on the 26th October 2015. We have enclosed the screen-grabs of these conversations for your review and those within the NUS [view here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/sanaz-raji/the-politics-of-silencing/10153281240813721%5D

Justice4Sanaz campaign is not as many of your NUS BSC cohorts dub, “an individual campaign”- as we have consistently shown through our research and in speaking to other non-EU international Black and people of colour, have found many examples of institutional racism and xenophobia that are robbing non-EU international students of colour of their education, housing and other matters that are woefully ignored by mainstream student activists.

We also fail to understand how the WIMCW? Leeds Launch was conceived of as being a “safe space” by LUU Student Executive Education Officer, Ms Melissa Owusu, when four white security guards were present, patrolling the event. When Ms Raji made her intervention at the event by reading a prepared statement, three large white male security staff violating bundled her down a fight of steps towards the exit. After vocalisations of dismay from some audience members was Ms Raji able to read her statement, albeit surround by four security guards. At no point did Ms Bouattia object to the intense security presence during the event and, in particular, to the brutal manhandling of Ms Raji. We must question LUU’s definition of “safe space”, especially their continued justification of using security at such an event as you can see from the correspondence by Ms Rebekah Smith, Director of Development at Leeds University Union enclosed in this letter. As someone who has advocated the Students Not Suspects campaign against PREVENT and the heightened policing of Black, PoC, and Muslim bodies on UK campuses, we fail to understand why you decided to participated in the WIMCW? Leeds Launch with given such high security presence at the event. The security presence at the WIMCW? Leeds Launch was utterly alienating to Black, PoC, WoC and non-EU international students who are consistently monitored by university security, police in addition to university lecturers and staff as a direct result of the PREVENT legislation.

In closing, the Justice4Sanaz campaign demands that you provide a full apology to Ms Raji for both your negligence and that of the greater NUS BSC to the Justice4Sanaz campaign and to fulfilling the basic tenants of the Black International Students motion 102a”

We look forward to the responses of both Leeds University Union and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign in the new year.  We hope that both organizations take seriously there responsibility and complicity in what transpired at the Why is My Curriculum White? Leeds Launch event-especially so if they are truly interested in decolonizing and tearing down the barriers present within a largely white academia that is institutional racist, xenophobic and ableist. Otherwise, as we have consistently said over and over again, we will continue to question the sincerity of their mission to shed light on white supremacy, racism, xenophobia and neoliberal violence that many Black, PoC folks, whether British, migrant, asylum seeker and refugees currently facing each and everyday.

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Photographic Proof of Security Manhandling Sanaz at LUU’s Why is My Curriculum White Event

It has been brought to our attention that the Leeds Tab published a piece about Sanaz’s intervention at the Why is My Curriculum White Leeds Launch. Of course, as expected, the Leeds Tab piece concerning Sanaz’s intervention is nothing more than a fine example of one-sided, one dimensional reporting. After all, the Leeds Tab is the Daily Mail of student media! Duncan Claber, the author of the Leeds Tab piece writes that Sanaz’s interruption made “several allegations about the University’s conduct” as if to infer that whatever Sanaz said during her intervention was a rambling pack of lies. Had Claber taken the time to glance at this blog, the extensive media coverage the Justice4Sanaz campaign has generated, and in particular, had read the Ceasefire expose where from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the campaign found numerous of instances were faculty at the School of Media and Communication used racist, xenophobic and ableist language to describe Sanaz, perhaps Claber wouldn’t make baseless and false accusations against the Justice4Sanaz campaign! If Claber was really serious about reporting a balanced perspective, he could have also read a piece outlining the rational why Sanaz decided to intervene at the Why is My Curriculum White event along with Mr Erizia’s statement at the abuse that both he and Sanaz were met with by Leeds University security. But alas, this is the Leeds Tab we are talking about- we had little expectation that the piece would be anything less than a farce.

Adding insult to injury, Claber maintains that “the event was a huge success for both Melissa and the student body and a great event to mark the end of Black History Month.” The violent abuse of a 5’3 foot WoC disabled activist by three white security guards at an event that was purposed by the Leeds University Union (LUU) as being a safe space during Black History Month is not a “huge success.”  What LUU, followed by the NUS Black Students’ Campaign showed was the abysmal and disgusting manner in which securitization and neoliberalism are being employed by mainstream anti-racist campaigner to only suppress grassroots anti-racist Black/PoC and WoC lead campaigns. If Ms Owusu, Education Officer of the Student Executive at LUU maintains that the Why is My Curriculum White event was to be a safe space, the why was there 4 white security guards from Leeds University Security on hand during the event? How can one have a safe space policy with such a high level of official university security present- the very same security that often oppresses and brutalizes Black, PoC, and WoC students and staff on campus?

As for the Why is My Curriculum White event furthering the ethos of neoliberalism under the banner of anti-racist activism, someone who attended the event had this to say:

The whole framing of the WIMCW event was bogus from the start -the claim that it’s just about reading lists and representation on the curriculum. It felt to me like it was set up by LUU in a way that is pandering to students as consumers, […] there was no meaningful political commitment in that event – it seemed part and parcel of neoliberal education. I think your intervention in the event showed it up for how hollow it was.”

Of course, as it was stated in the Tab Leeds piece, Ms Owusu claimed that she wants, “Leeds University to be number one in the world for a diverse curriculum.” As anti-racist academics, activists and campaigners, we need to question the motives of Black and PoC individuals who seek not to dismantle the harmful effects of neoliberalism that disproportionate effect working class Black, PoC and migrant communities, but rather are merrily injecting neoliberal language and policy in the service of both institution and the state.  After all “diversity” talk is problematic language itself.  As a recent piece questioning the politics of diversity published in Salon, Ellen Berrey indicates,

“Ultimately, I see diversity as a big lie. We need fewer cheerful logos and more effective action. Like an honest reckoning with racist housing policies that have robbed people of color of wealth.”

The fact that Ms Owusu and the NUS BSC leadership on hand at the event failed to include the Justice4Sanaz campaign into the discussion and a comprehensive action plan that Black, PoC and white students can use to eradicate white supremacy and institutional racism on campus, is all the more telling of how water-down their commitments are to said issues.

What Justice4Sanaz campaign saw at the Why is My Curriculum White Leeds Launch event was nothing more than cosmetic-feel-good-ally-theater. It was a event in which LUU student reps, mainstream student activism via the NUS and academics could all come together and perform a spectacle of anti-racist politics in order to pat themselves on the back in a smug, self-congratulatory manner without any actions or plans to support Black and PoC students working towards these very same issues.

Perhaps the only good thing about the Leeds Tab piece are the photographic evidence of the intense security presence followed by the brutal violence that Sanaz incurred by Leeds University Security which you can see below.

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Leeds University security guard standing and observing the Why is My Curriculum White talk. Photo courtesy of The Leeds Tab.

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Sanaz reading her prepared statement while being violently manhandled by three white security guards at an event to question white supremacy in education. Photo courtesy of The Leeds Tab.

The Justice4Sanaz campaign filed a letter of complaint to LUU  on the 4th November 2015. We expect to get a response from the LUU within 15 days.  We have already heard that the student unions of King’s College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies are also sending letters of concern to LUU about the violent treatment that Sanaz Raji sustained at the Why is My Curriculum White event. We will be keeping everyone informed as to what response LUU gives regarding our complaint.

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