The President of Oxford Union, Brendan McGrath, resigned on November 19 after severe backlash following violent removal of a blind student from a no-confidence debate. On October 17, an altercation broke out between Union staff and Ebenezer Azamati, a Ghanaian MPhil student in International Relations at St John’s College, when he was trying to re-enter the chamber after having left some possessions behind to reserve an accessible seat. The Union staff seized Azamati’s Union card and dragged him by his ankles which created a furore after the news came out.
McGrath, in his resignation letter, addressed to the president-elect and members of the standing committee, proposed measures including a full, public, and independent review of the Union’s policies in respect of disability and a professional review of how Union trains its staff.
“The society cannot recover with one resignation. I trust that you, and future members of the standing committee, will follow through on these measures earnestly,” wrote McGrath.
After McGrath’s resignation, the Oxford University Africa Society (AfriSoc) called it an outcome of almost 50,000 signatures to their petition on change.org, the pressure induced through national and international media, and nearly 300 signatures of members of Oxford Union supporting his removal. Calling the resignation as an essential first step to resolve institutional problems at the Oxford Union, AfriSoc reiterated its demand for punishment of security personnel and compensation to Azamati.
Earlier, AfriSoc had condemned the incident and demanded the resignation of Brendan McGrath calling him ‘unfit to assume the position of responsibility’. The continuous pressure forced McGrath to formally withdraw the charge against Azamati of violent behaviour and aggressive gestures and apologise for the incident for ‘distress’ and any ‘reputational damage’.
“AfriSoc holds this case as not only a grave injustice to Mr Azamati but to all African students, students with disability needs and all students at the University of Oxford with the heart and mind to appreciate the unfair and undignified treatment of Mr. Azamati,” AfriSoc had said in a statement.