Union Treasurer resigns following controversial speaker announcement

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Image Description: A picture of the outside of the Oxford Union taken from the courtyard.

The Treasurer of the Oxford Union has this afternoon resigned from her position. She becomes the second Union Treasurer to resign since the end of Michaelmas term.

Adi Kesaia Toganivalu, who was elected to the position of Secretary in the election of Michaelmas term, was promoted to the role of Treasurer when her predecessor resigned. She today resigned, telling other Senior Officials that it had been an honour to serve in the positions of Secretary and Treasuer, but that she did not believe that she was the right person for the job, in light of recent events.

In her resignation email, Toganivalu emphasised the invitation of Debra Soh as one of the main reasons for her resignation.

“Ultimately though, I bring my tenure to a premature end because I cannot continue its legacy in good faith. We as a committee have shied away from responsibility when, at the bare minimum the truth has been asked of us. The invitation of Debra Soh has brought to the forefront many troubling issues.”

“Why is it that when a speakers whose views so strongly affected the LGBTQIA community was invited, the Oxford Union’s LGBTQIA Officer was not consulted? You can believe in free speech and still believe in showing compassion to a minority group, of which some of our members belong to.”

“The Oxford Union is a society of the University of Oxford, and we should have worked harder to work with our fellow students rather than in spite of them.”

Commenting further this evening on the reasons behind her resignation, Toganivalu stated:

“My resignation means nothing. It means nothing at all. This term, the election will roll back around and the same committee members who knew of the illegal gathering or were in attendance themselves, will ask for your votes. I was out of the running a good while ago, but in spite of the scandals, I stayed on as a matter of pride and out of a belief I could do better work from within. I was wrong, and I refuse to be part of it anymore. Eventually you have to put your own happiness first.”

The Oxford Union has been strongly criticised in recent days over its termcard, including the inclusion of Debra Soh, who has repeatedly been accused of transphobia. The SU LGBTQ campaign released a statement condemning her inclusion, and criticising the Union for repeated failure to address problem around invited speakers.

“As queer activists, it is hardly worth our time to engage on this issue with an organisation that has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to change, but we note that this is not even the first time this year we have been compelled to comment on the Union’s practice of inviting anti-trans speakers. That transphobia is viewed by the Oxford Union’s leadership as an acceptable belief to platform, even a reliable source of attention, continues to exemplify a culture at this university that is profoundly anti-trans. This culture will not change until the university and the student body, as well as the Oxford Union, take steps to understand the damage that their decisions to tolerate, tacitly support, or even encourage transphobia causes to trans students, to our studies, and to our lives.”

In an Access Committee meeting this afternoon, a taskforce was created to determine how best to question Soh in light of recent criticism. However, while many have called for her invitation to be rescinded, President James Price maintained his strong stance in favour of Soh, highlighting section 2B of the Union’s rules and regulations, which protects free speech. He further proposed that the best way in which to criticise Soh was to interview her, and to interrogate her beliefs.

When approached for comment, James Price, President of the Oxford Union thanked Toganivalu for her work. He also emphasised that he understood that students may well be struggling in light of the lockdown restrictions.
“I want to thank the Treasurer for her efforts this term, and wish her well in her future endeavours.”
This article was updated to include comment from the Oxford Union and further comment from Adi Kesaia Toganivalu.


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