Hack with the rack strikes back

Maddie Grant has severely criticised both the Union and the Student press in the wake of her disciplinary hearing at the debating society last Wednesday.

Grant was fined ¬£120 for ‚Äėbringing the¬†Union into disrepute‚Äô after she spoke¬†to the press without the President‚Äôs¬†permission following her controversial¬†manifesto for the position of Librarian¬†in which she claimed, ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt hack, I¬†just have a great rack‚ÄĚ.

In a front-page article from this week‚Äôs¬†The Mail on Sunday, Maddie commented¬†that the Union hearing was ‚Äúridiculous.¬†They were treating it as though it¬†was a scene from To Kill A Mockingbird ;¬†some sort of moral crusade‚Ķ They were¬†relentless and totally unsympathetic ‚Äď in¬†fact, quite cruel.‚ÄĚ

Talking to The Oxford Student¬† Grant¬†took her criticisms further explaining¬†her decision to resign her membership¬†of the Union: ‚ÄúThey‚Äôve already kind of¬†fucked me over and I‚Äôm not going to¬†pay ¬£120 to remain in a society which¬†hates me‚ÄĚ.

Grant then went on to level further¬†attacks at her ‚Äúaccuser‚ÄĚ, Union President¬†Izzy Ernst: ‚Äúobviously she was completely¬†within her rights as President to fine¬†me, but I know she actually deliberately¬†ran it through standing committee so¬†that it wouldn‚Äôt look like the accusation¬†had come from her.

‚ÄúAlthough, apparently, she phrased it¬†in such a way that one couldn‚Äôt really¬†not pass it through because she said¬†‚Äėthe rules here have been violated you¬†have to put it through‚Äô. She arranged the¬†whole thing in such a way, by getting the¬†permission of the Standing Committee,¬†that it would look like a legitimate thing¬†and less like a personal vendetta‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI just think it was very misguided. I¬†mean we‚Äôve already learned that the¬†public read crap and nothing is trashy¬†enough or pointless enough for the national¬†press not to run.‚ÄĚ

Izzy Ernst released a statement responding to Grant’s allegations: “The President made a formal complaint and the disciplinary proceedings were brought against Ms Grant not because of her manifesto but because she broke Society rules by speaking to the press without the President’s permission whilst on Standing Committee.

“It is the President’s responsibility to bring any member to account for such a breach and to bring this to the awareness of a disciplinary committee. It is up to the disciplinary committee to decide whether the complaint is justified and to determine the extent of the punishment.

‚ÄúMs Grant‚Äôs actions in speaking to the¬†press were undertaken deliberately in¬†a way that was liable to bring the Society¬†into disrepute. The disciplinary¬†committee also found that during interviews¬†with the press, Ms Grant made¬†untruthful remarks about the society,¬†which were in some instances offensive¬†to individual members‚ÄĚ

Ernst’s decision was also supported by Ex-President Izzy Westbury, who said: “The media interviews that Ms Grant undertook were done so both deliberately and in a way intent on making the Union look bad Рso it was right to take action.

‚ÄúThe fact that every article in the national¬†press has inferred that disciplinary¬†action was taken as a result of Maddie’s¬†“rack” comment is absurd – it’s extremely¬†misleading and it’s disappointing that¬†this misconception was fuelled to the¬†extent that it was.

“When I originally heard about the manifesto, I thought it was pretty funny Рthere have been joke manifestos in the past and this was nothing different.

Quite rightly, the Union made no judgement on this.

‚ÄúBut what breached the rules were the¬†gratuitous attention-seeking press interviews¬†that ensued, which deliberately¬†set out to reinforce negative (and dare¬†I say false) stereotypes of the Oxford¬†Union – so damned right she should¬†have been held to account.‚ÄĚ

Despite these claims that Grant‚Äôs interactions¬†with the press were ‚Äėattention-seeking‚Äô, Grant told The Mail on¬†Sunday¬† that she was ‚Äúdevastated‚Ä̬†when the story of her manifesto¬†was broken in the national¬†press.

Talking to The OxStu, ¬†Grant also criticised the¬†manner in which she had¬†been treated by Oxford‚Äôs¬†student press:¬†‚ÄúThe student journalists,¬†particularly¬†at Cherwell¬†¬†seem to be able¬†to say ‚Äėoh, look¬†at this massive¬†controversy‚Äô¬†because people¬†have ticked these¬†offensive boxes.

Then they get¬†one of their close¬†friends, who potentially¬†doesn‚Äôt¬†even exist, or¬†they make a¬†quote of their¬†own, quote it,¬†and then say¬†‚Äėhuge scandal¬†sparked‚Äô¬†when, in¬†fact, it‚Äôs¬†them who¬†have created¬†it.‚ÄĚ

Despite Grant’s claims, however, there is no evidence to suggest that Cherwell  breached the PCC’s code of conduct in their original coverage of the story.

Responding to Grant‚Äôs claims Cherwell‚Äôs¬†¬†editors said “Cherwell¬† is proud of¬†the standards of journalistic integrity¬†that all its reporters and editors uphold,¬†and has complete faith in its articles,¬†many of which are taken up and verified by national newspapers. We fully¬†abide by the code of practice set out¬†by the Press Complaints Commission¬†which states that the press must not¬†print inaccurate, misleading or distorted¬†information.”

Grant also answered claims that she had manufactured the press attention for her own ends.

Questions had been raised in¬†relation to an email sent by¬†Grant to The OxStu¬† on 28th¬†February (2 days before Cherwell¬†¬†first broke the story) in¬†which she said, ‚Äúif I could¬†get in this week it would¬†be wonderful‚ÄĚ.

Grant responded to¬†these allegations saying:¬†‚ÄúWith the email¬†to The OxStu¬† it was¬†more just that I was¬†running as an independent¬†candidate,¬†there were people¬†hacking all across¬†Oxford with 30 people¬†to help them out¬†across their slate. It was¬†really just that I wanted¬†to, not draw attention¬†to myself, but because¬†I thought at the time¬†that it was quite funny¬†and I thought The¬†OxStu¬† might think¬†so too‚Ķ I can honestly¬†say I have not¬†enjoyed any of this.”