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 allege the President has been “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 No Confidence 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 fourth 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, a handful of individuals are offered 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.

Edit: In response to the questions submitted, the President told the Oxford Student, “The nature of [the Standing Committee member’s] speech was adapted due to serious concerns being lodged with the President and the Returning Officer on Wednesday evening before and because several committee members had approached the President and others in the senior team informally about [the Standing Committee member]’s poor conduct. Out of respect for the complainant’s wish to keep themselves and the details of their concerns anonymous due to fear of backlash, further harassment and intimidation as well as alleged violation of Rule 33 (electoral malpractice) and Rule 71 (disciplinary concerns), this full reason couldn’t be conveyed to [the Standing Committee Member] in full at the time.”

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

Image Credits: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation via fickr