The President of the Oxford Union has given into pressure to resign after a blind postgrad student was forcibly removed from a debate. 25-year-old Ebenezer Azamati was refused entry after having reserved his seat. Azamati later entered the debate with a friend before being violently dragged out by his ankles by a security guard and having his Oxford Union membership revoked.
The Oxford University Africa Society condemned the treatment as “violent, unjust, inhumane and shameful”
Oxford Union President, Brendan McGarth called for a disciplinary hearing against the student, which he later withdrew, charging him with aggressive and violent behaviour. The Oxford University Africa Society have condemned Azamati’s treatment as “violent, unjust, inhumane and shameful” and “unjustifiable”. Azamati said he was left feeling “unwelcome” in Oxford and in the country, and that more should be done by the Oxford Union to clear his name.
In his resignation statement, McGarth said he had “manifestly failed” in his duty as president to make all students feel welcome at the Union and proposed an “independent review of the Union’s policies in respect of disability”.
The events at the Union are just one example of the exclusive and antiquated nature of university debating societies
Russell Group university debating societies have often been the site of controversy, for not being tolerant or inclusive. Afua Hirsch wrote in ‘The Guardian’ that she found the Oxford Union to be an “instinctively hostile environment” when she was studying at the university.
Debating societies at some of the UK’s top universities have failed to shake off their old boys’ club image. They do not seem to have made much effort to be accessible to a diverse range of students, and they have also failed to show that debating is not just for white, privately educated students.
The events at the Oxford Union are just one example of the exclusive and antiquated nature of university debating societies, which are in desperate need of change. The Oxford Union has a responsibility to be open and accessible to all of its members, and incidents like these prove just how much work it has left to do.
Image: U.S Department of State via Flickr