Staff and students at SOAS walk out over suspended union member

Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have walked out for a second day over the suspension of a union officer.

The university was forced to close yesterday after hundreds of staff and students protested over the treatment of Sandy Nicoll who was suspended this week. This morning, Unison and UCU members voted to continue their action.

Nicoll, who has worked the university for over 20 years, says he was falsely accused of helping students to occupy a SOAS building.

"The support I've received has been phenomenal," Nicoll said.

"I'm stood outside now and the school looks like a ghost town, there's hardly anyone coming or going. Students all over the world protest, it's something the university should welcome.

"I think the way they [the university] have acted shows they've completely lost the plot," he added.

Students have occupied the building for over three weeks after a document was leaked showing that the university was considering cutting courses. The action has been supported by the student union which has called for Nicoll to be immediately reinstated.

"We completely condemn the suspension of Sandy Nicoll," Tom King, the co-president of welfare and campaigns at the student union, said.

"This victimisation is an attack on our right to collectively organise on campus and to protest against university policy."

Carrie Benjamin, a PhD student at SOAS, believes Nicoll has been unjustly targeted and questions the timing of the suspension.

"With the events over the last few weeks, the management seems to be applying pressure just before reading week to prevent any strong mobilisation of students and staff," she said.

A spokesperson for SOAS insisted there is no official strike at the university today and said they cannot comment on any individuals. In a statement about yesterday's protest they added:

"SOAS college building and library were closed due to a crowd barring entry to the building. Estates and facilities could not guarantee the safety of staff and students, therefore the decision was taken to close the building and library."