Oxford Union President to be Questioned Over Accusations of Bullying Committee Members

Today, Thursday 2nd June, Week 6 Trinity Term, the President of the Oxford Union will face questions over accusations of bullying. The President of the Oxford Union, Michael-Akolade Ayodeji, is also President-elect of the Oxford Student Union. 

Under the Oxford Union’s rules questions to officers can be submitted and addressed within a Public Business Meeting. The Public Business Meeting is expected to take place this evening with the questions read out in the chamber, prior to the weekly debate. 

Two questions have been submitted in accordance with the Rules and Standing Orders, firstly by an Elected Member of the Secretary’s Committee and also by the Librarian. 

The Elected Member, Joe Murray, Pembroke College, has asked a series of questions that accuse the President of “consistently [dismissing] the opinions of female members of committee” and “bullying members of [his] committee”. The five questions conclude with asking: “Do you think in light of these matters you should resign?”

Under the society’s rules the President, a sitting officer, can be removed only under a motion of impeachment or internal disciplinary procedures. A motion of impeachment is debated in the chamber after impeachment motions are initiated by any ordinary member. 

In 2019 the President at the time, Brendan McGrath, resigned before a motion of impeachment could be debated in the chamber. A motion of impeachment had received the required number of signatures on the society’s noticeboard, however McGrath resigned before it could be debated in the chamber. McGrath’s resignation was triggered by multiple resignations in the wake of a blind student being dragged from the chamber by security. 

Notably, the Librarian, considered to be second in seniority to the President, has also submitted questions in the Public Business Meeting. The Librarian, Charlie Mackintosh, New College, has submitted questions referring to the accusation the President withdrew a paper speech from a member of The Standing Committee less than 24 hours before they were due to speak. Each term members of the Committee have the opportunity to make a paper speech in the highly-attended Thursday Debates. This week’s motion is ‘This House Believes The Raj Lives On’.

The Librarian’s questions focus on the withdrawal of the paper speech but also ask whether it is true the President has “reduced [other] female members of committee to tears on several occasions.” The Librarian’s questions do not refer to resignation.

In a post made to Facebook, the member of The Standing Committee stated that “I wont be speaking at the debate tonight”. “I’m upset and disappointed and feel like like I’ve been treated awfully”.

“While I do think the way I have been treated is symptomatic of a larger problem of the culture at the union, I won’t get on to that right now”.

When requested for comment, Joe Murray said that “I am bringing this to the chamber, as a public business meeting, because too many in the Union do not feel heard. I am doing this on behalf of them. Accountability is crucial in any student society, and I seek to uphold that in the Union”.

The Oxford Student has also requested comment from the President and Librarian, and will update the article upon receiving any response.

Image Description: The Oxford Union chamber filled with an audience watching a talk.

Image Credits: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation via fickr