Oxford Union debate: Blind student 'upset' by response after row

Media caption,
Footage of security appearing to grapple with Mr Azamati was filmed in the chamber

A blind student who was "violently" removed from an Oxford Union debate has said he is upset the society is yet to acknowledge he did nothing wrong.

Ebenezer Azamati was "accosted" by a security guard when he tried to return to a seat he had earlier reserved before the discussion on 17 October.

He said he wanted the union to state "clearly and straightforwardly, that I am not at fault".

The acting president has called an "emergency meeting".

Its previous leader, Brendan McGrath, apologised for his "mistakes" and quit over the row on Tuesday.

In a statement, Mr Azamati said Mr McGrath's recognition that the union's disability practices would be reviewed was "helpful" but added he had not been consulted on any proposals.

He added he wanted the union to state "clearly and straightforwardly, that I am not at fault in any way for the way I was treated".

"Then it should explain what it proposes to do and then to listen to what I have to say about its proposals," he said, adding those steps would make would Mr McGrath's resignation "far more meaningful".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The union is a student society with a history of hosting debates and high-profile speakers

Acting president Sara Dube said the union's standing committee would discuss both "equality training" for staff and the committee, and its complaints process.

She said the committee would discuss "meetings with disability advisory services" and look at a "professional review of staff and training" on Wednesday.

Harry Hatwell, a member of the union who led impeachment proceedings against Mr McGrath, welcomed the resignation but said "the culture of the union must be changed".

The student, who raised a point of order about Mr Azamati's removal during the debate to Conservative Nicky Morgan, said: "That night in the chamber, I should not have been the only person who raised a point of information."

Mr Hatwell said it was "not enough to shirk responsibility and blame others" and has called for the union to "reach out and show that it can be worthy of its position in the world".

Mr Azamati was "forcibly and violently prevented from re-entering the union to resume his seat" before a debate in October, according to the university's Africa Society.

Its president Nwamaka Ogbonna said "conduct is completely unacceptable" and has called for the union to make "policies to ensure the union is safe for every student that goes in".

He said the way he was treated had made him feel "unwelcome in the union, Oxford and even the country".

In his resignation statement, Mr McGrath said: "The right response would not have begun with prosecution and apportioning blame".

What is the Oxford Union?

The Oxford Union, which is independent from the university, has a tradition of hosting debates and speakers stretching back to 1823.

It is one of the most prestigious debating societies in the world and its chamber intentionally resembles the House of Commons.

Former prime minister Harold Macmillan once said the union is "the last bastion of free speech in the Western world".

The union invites world leaders, politicians, celebrities and controversial speakers to give speeches to its members, who are mostly current or former Oxford students.

Past presidents include Boris Johnson, Lord Heseltine and former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

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