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Oxford Union committee member resigns over “systemic issues”

Aimee Adey, a member of the Union’s Secretary’s Committee, has resigned today with a fiery email sent to the top echelons of the Union’s leadership referencing “systemic issues”. The email cited the union’s culture, as well as the “behaviour and conduct” of senior committee members, who she claimed had “disproportionately and unfairly targeted other members”.

Adey also said that there was “no true sense of democracy” at the Union. Adey was elected to Secretary’s Committee at the end of Trinity 2023, with the fewest votes of any of those elected. She ran as part of President-Elect Hannah Edwards’ Impact slate, which swept the elected officer positions of President, Treasurer, Librarian and Secretary. The Oxford Student understands that Julia Maranhao-Wong, the current Secretary, will be running for the Union Presidency in the Union’s week 7 elections, with Izzy Horrocks-Taylor, Louis Wilson, and Chris Collins on her slate. 

Adey’s resignation is likely in reference to a series of incidents that have unfolded in recent weeks in relation to Zariel Konadu, a member of Standing Committee. Finley Armstrong, the Treasurer-Elect, brought a complaint against Konadu over his failure to complete the number of vacation days required of him. Vacation days are days that Union Committee members must work at the Union during the Vacation period, but they are unpaid, a longstanding point of contention.

A disciplinary committee called to meet over the complaint found that Konadu had failed to complete his required vacation days. However, rather than removing him from office, as Armstrong requested, they imposed a different, weaker, penalty, removing him from Union privileges, such as their exclusive debate dinners, for two terms.

Yet just hours later, Armstrong, along with Librarian Seb Watkins, tried to make a rules change attempting to bar from running in elections anyone who had been subject to a disciplinary committee in the same term. The Oxford Student has learnt that the attempt to change the rules was part of an attempt to prevent Konadu from running. However, the Returning Officer made the decision to suppress the motion. 

An update to the report from the disciplinary committee described the move to “subvert” the committee’s decision as “shameful” and noted that it was hard not to view the complaint as having “electoral motivations”. They stated that if they had been aware of the plan, they would likely have barred Armstrong from ever running for a Union position again and removed him from committee.

In her email, Adey described the “harmful machinations” that take place in the Union. Adey ran for committee alongside Konadu in Trinity as part of Konadu’s so-called “pod family” and The Oxford Student believes the resignation is motivated in part by Konadu’s treatment. This is not the first time concerns regarding the Union have been discussed in recent weeks.

At Student Council’s week 3 meeting, ‘Free Speech and the Oxford Union’ brought a discussion of “concerns regarding the Oxford Union inviting individuals deemed morally reprehensible”. Mia Clement, SU VP Activities and Community, said that “what is happening at the Union is abhorrent” in reference to its invitation of controversial speakers Ben Shapiro, Katie Hopkins, and Charlie Kirk to speak this term. The item for discussion warned that discussion of these speakers and what they have said would involve “racism, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, antiziganism, fatphobia and antisemitism.” The proposer’s belief that “the principle of freedom of speech doesn’t preclude the SU from condemning the Oxford Union for its choice of speakers” was agreed with by multiple SU sabbatical officers. 

After the invitation of Kathleen Stock in Trinity 2023, the SU’s LGBTQ+ Campaign was required to remove a statement they had published condemning her invitation as the SU was concerned it violated the government’s freedom of speech laws in relation to higher education. 

In a statement by Disha Hegde, Union President, read out at the meeting, she highlighted the Union as a place for members to challenge speakers either in the format of a traditional debate or in individual speaker events. She also mentioned her open hours on Fridays, and invited Student Council members to the Union’s access and consultative committees.

The Oxford Union said in a comment to The Oxford Student that, “The Oxford Union Society approaches all disciplinary complaints in a serious and appropriate manner. We firmly believe that our track record proves this, as evidenced by our handling of the most recent ODC pertaining to Mr Konadu, Elected Member of the Standing Committee. The report from the panel can be found on our noticeboard.

“All members of the Society, including those who find themselves as the complainant or defendant on a disciplinary panel, have access to welfare resources provided by the Society.

“We recognise the need for welfare resources, which is why not only does the Society have a senior and a junior welfare officer, but a series of office-holders who have been welfare-trained, such as the Chair of the Consultative Committee, the President, the President-elect, the Chief of Staff, etc. Access to welfare training sessions is open to all members of committee and ordinary members of the Society. 

“Our ODC panels are crucial to the day-to-day functioning of the Society, as these ensure that all of our elected and appointed officials do their duty and are held accountable.”