Oxford Union president resigns after blind student dragged out of debate

He tried to charge the student with violent misconduct


The president of the Oxford Union has resigned following a row over a blind student being dragged from a debate his ankles.

Brendan McGrath had faced calls to resign after Ghanaian postgrad student Ebenezer Azamati was manhandled by security and ejected from a debate.

Azamati was subsequently charged with violent misconduct by the president and suspended by the union. The charge was dropped, but petitions and protests called for McGrath's resignation.

Azamati said treatment left him feeling unwelcome in the university and the country, and that he felt he was treated as "not being human enough to deserve justice".

In his resignation statement, McGrath said he has "manifestly failed" to ensure every member of the union felt welcome.

At least seven other student officials in the Oxford Union have resigned over the scandal. Before McGrath resigned, a motion of impeachment had gained enough signatures for a vote, report Cherwell.

The Oxford Union is a debating club, not the actual Students' Union. Past presidents include Boris Johnson and Benazir Bhutto.

25-year-old Ghanaian student Ebenezer Azamati was dragged by ankles from debate on the 17th October, manhandled and escorted out.

A witness told a disciplinary hearing: “Thirty seconds after he sat down, the security guard came in. Five seconds afterwards he started touching Azamati, who was holding onto the bench. Thirty seconds later they were dragging him by his ankles.”

Afterwards, the Oxford Union suspended Azamati, and McGrath brought disciplinary charges against him, alleging he made violent hand gestures towards security.

When the story was reported by The Sunday Times, the Oxford Union had "apologised unreservedly" and withdrawn the charge of violent misconduct.

However, controversy remained, with the President of Oxford University African Society saying: "They can’t just declare him not guilty and expect this to go away."

A petition launched by OUAS gained 37,000 signatures, and over 100 people attended protests in Oxford calling for McGrath's resignation.

McGrath called for a review of the Union's disability policies and for equalities training for union staff, whilst apologising "profusely and unqualifiedly".

Posted by Oxford University Africa Society on Friday, November 15, 2019

Facing impeachment, McGrath resigned. In his resignation statement, he said he had been advised it was his responsibility to bring the complaint against Azamati, but acknowledged he had failed to recognise a "wider obligation".

Please see the below letter from the President to the Oxford Union's Standing Committee.

Posted by The Oxford Union on Tuesday, November 19, 2019

In response to the resignation, Nwamaka Ogbonna, OUAS president told Cherwell: “We are glad that the President, Mr Brendan McGrath, has made the right decision to resign. The fact that nearly 300 students signed the impeachment motion today shows how important these issues are to the Union’s membership."