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Oxford Union Treasurer resigns following cancel culture scandal and allegations of bullying

Image: the Oxford Union, via Adventure in Oxford.

CW: Attempted suicide, links to resources at the bottom of article

The Treasurer of the Oxford Union has resigned in a week that’s seen transphobic writer Graham Linehan uninvited, the removal of certain departmental communication, and bullying allegations against senior officers. In a turbulent week for the society, The Flete breaks down this series of events that has rocked the Oxford student community. 

Graham Linehan, creator of The IT Crowd and Father Ted, was disinvited from speaking at the Oxford Union at a debate centred on Cancel Culture. The email disinviting him, which he posted on his personal blog, cites “logistical difficulties” as the reason for his invite being rescinded.

The Oxford Student Union LGBTQ Campaign commented in response to Linehan’s invite and cancellation that “These events are an inevitable result of the Union’s commitment to causing controversy rather than encouraging debate. The society has acted with poor judgement both in inviting Mr Linehan and in choosing to revoke that invitation, thereby opening themselves to the same accusations of ‘cancel culture’ they had originally sought to discuss. As a campaign, we are far more concerned by the original invitation as a testament to the very real and ongoing culture of transphobia at this university.”

Allegations of bullying have also swept through the committee. A senior elected official is alleged to have attempted suicide after being put under undue pressure by other members of committee. The incident in question is alleged to have taken place during committee ‘vac’ days prior to Linehan being disinvited.

An ex-committee member who was present during the attempt commented “…the bullying had clearly taken an immense toll on [them], despite some members of committee still supporting [them]. Having been on committee myself, and knowing how intense it can be at the best of times, it was clear it had all gone way too far.”

The individual in question declined to comment but The Flete understands a written record was kept, and that the President fulfilled his duty of care towards the committee member after being informed.

Rules and Standing Orders of the Oxford Union prevent committee members from speaking to the press without express permission; however the individual in question feels it is necessary to publicise such an ordeal in order to expose the personal toll student politics takes.

Leaked intra-committee communication shows the Secretary messaging her private committee with an offer of support following an incident allegedly endorsed by other senior members of committee. Screenshots obtained by The Oxford Student show the President Elect joins this chat and the messages are all removed. 

The Oxford Union denies any responsibility for the alleged incident, and has reaffirmed that they operated and continue to operate in line with Covid regulations and guidance.

The Treasurer of the Oxford Union tendered their resignation over the weekend. The office was then succeeded by the Secretary, after the Treasurer-elect waived their right to succeed. There has been much speculation as to the motives behind the resignation, with some believing it comes as a result of the inflexible nature of much of the current union establishment.

An insider commented: “The ex-Treasurer remains one of the best people I know. She held herself with integrity, was always kind towards the committee and worked tirelessly. Once again, the Union establishment have, with their insatiable careerism, driven out another capable individual.”

The Oxford Union has faced mass resignations in previous terms. The former president of Michaelmas Term 2019 resigned after being embroiled in scandal, after a blind member was wrongfully dragged out of the chamber. First to resign was a member of the Standing Committee, who was soon followed by other members of committee, including officers.

This article has been amended to include the following resources for anyone personally affected by the issues raised in this article:

Samaritans – 116 123 – Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year.  We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123 email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.

Shout – Text SHOUT to 85258 – Shout is the UK’s first free 24/7 text service for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere.  It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.

The Oxford Union has been contacted for comment. 

Edited 20:34 21/12/20 to include paragraph on Rules and Standing Orders.

Edited 21:52 and again at 22:00 21/12/20 owing to concerns that detail of the incident from the witness posed a welfare concern, however the editorial team have decided to include parts of the comment in order to convey the extend of bullying within the Oxford Union committee and how this directly led to the serious attempt mentioned in this article.

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