CW: antisemitism, racism
The University of Oxford’s Student Council is not accepting any motions of no confidence against President-Elect Rashmi Samant, Linacre College, until 7th Week. The Flete has learned that students hoping to submit an emergency motion of no confidence in time for 5th Week Student Council have been informed they cannot do so. This is because it is unclear whether the Student Union’s governing documents allow for the President-Elect to be given such short notice of a motion of no-confidence.
The President-Elect, who won her election with the Student Union’s highest ever turnout, has come under scrutiny for historic social media posts and comments made while campaigning. The posts include a 2017 Instagram caption punning on the word “Holocaust”, attached to an image of Samant posing at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, and another Instagram post from 2019 taken in Malaysia with a caption many have perceived to be racist.
The President-Elect has been strongly criticised by many who view these comments in light of her manifesto, which references “racial injustices and searing inequalities”, and her BAME background as being a reason she would be well-suited to tackle them at the university.
The founder of Melanin., a grassroots organisation in Oxford created to tackle racism at the university, has published a Facebook post criticising Samant’s Instagram post taken in Malaysia. Jin-Gyu Chang, Keble College, stated “I refuse to be represented by an SU president that uses insensitive language and microaggressions against ANY minority group, especially when she ran on a platform of inclusivity and ‘[empathy] towards struggles faced by marginalised groups’.”
The Student Council’s decision not to take any motions of no confidence until 7th Week owes to Article 21.1 in the Articles of Association, which states that the office-holder in question must receive written notice that the resolution or motion is to be proposed, and must be afforded a “reasonable opportunity” to be heard or to make a written representation to Council or the Board.
In messages seen by The Flete, a student planning on proposing an emergency no confidence motion was told by the Chair of the Student Council that based on the Article 21.1 “a motion of no confidence cannot be accepted at this meeting. However, it is open for you to submit a motion mandating the current President to take specified actions.” It is understood that this matter has been referred to the Trustee Board for interpretation at their next meeting on Friday 19th February 2021.
This comes after the Oxford SU CRAE—Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality—published a statement on the weekend calling for her immediate letter of resignation and a formal apology to the marginalised groups affected. Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign shared the statement, stating that “The LGBTQ+ Campaign stands in complete solidarity with CRAE, and with all students of colour on this issue, and affirms the need for her to step down and make an immediate, formal apology.”
The Chair of the Student Council and Jin Gyu Chang, founder of Melanin., have been approached for comment.