Thursday, October 29, 2015
Demonstrations at SOAS
I did both my MA and PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Nobody in the US has ever heard of the place, especially not American academics, but it is very well known in the former British colonies throughout Africa and Asia. It was at one time the premiere institution of higher education in the English speaking world for the study of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Now the administration is seeking to cut 184 courses and the students are protesting. The local unions, most notably Unison have been in full support of the students over this issue. This has been happening at the same time as a major labor dispute at SOAS over the pay and conditions for the cleaning staff. This has led the administration to retaliate by suspending Unison branch secretary Sandy Nicoll from his IT job at the university. Cutting the courses at SOAS is stupid. Nicoll should not have been suspended and should be reinstated. I actually knew Sandy Nicoll. I can recall a conversation with him where he strongly argued with a third person that the advances in medical care and education in Cuba since 1959 in no way justified its political dictatorship and repression of dissidents. It was a very low bar. After all even the capitalist UK had state provided medical care and at that time still education. I bring this up because it is the only conversation I can remember having with Sandy Nicoll although I am sure there were a couple of others and it demonstrated to me that he was a morally serious person.