Oxford Union to review practices after blind student removal

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

The Oxford Union says it will undertake "review of all practices, policies and structures" after a blind student was "violently" removed from a debate.

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

He said he was taking legal advice.

The Union has since passed a motion for all staff and committee members to "receive mandatory disability, race awareness, and implicit bias training".

Acting president Sara Dube held the "emergency meeting" after the society's leader Brendan McGrath resigned over his handling of allegations against Mr Azamati, who was removed before the start of a debate by security guards.

Video footage showed an argument between security and Mr Azamati in the chamber before staff appeared to manhandle him.

The postgraduate student from Ghana appealed charges of violent disorder and was cleared of any wrongdoing.

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

Ms Dube said the union would undertake a "comprehensive review of all practices, policies and structures of the union" and also pass a new disability policy following a consultation.

She said the standing committee passed "without objection" the motions, which also included a recommendation for all staff and committee members to "receive mandatory disability, race awareness, and implicit bias training in each term if they haven't received in the past year".

In a statement, Mr Azamati said he wanted the union to state "clearly and straightforwardly, that I am not at fault".

The International Relations student said the society, which is independent of Oxford University, should "explain what it proposes to do and then to listen to what I have to say about its proposals".

He said the way he was treated at the debate 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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