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.