Allegations fly at Frewin Court as Omkar is disqualified and Fischer resigns
The Oxford Union is currently without a President-Elect after Krishna Omkar’s win was overturned and he was banned from running again.
The Society descended into crisis after a tribunal held during the vacation found Omkar guilty of soliciting votes for himself and other candidates in the run up to Michaelmas elections – a practice prohibited by the debating society’s rules.
A re-poll for the position of President is scheduled for second week. To be eligible, candidates must have made the required number of qualifying speeches last term and not have stood in an election for a lower office last term.
Charlotte Fischer, one of only two people eligble to run in the re-poll, resigned from Standing Committee on Monday. In a long letter to Committee members she said she felt she had been the victim of “false rumours” and “personal attacks” but was resigning her position with “a heavy heart.” Claire Hennessey, who was Secretary in Michaelmas, is also eligble to run, but has suggested that she may not stand for election.
If no valid nominations are received for this term’s re-poll, it is expected that the Librarian – currently Edward Waldegrave – will assume the role of President in Trinity Term.
Everyone in the Union hierarchy of officers would then move up one position, subject to their agreement. Omkar’s electoral tribunal was brought against him by Presidential rival Fischer at the end of last term, and centred around a meeting held by Omkar in Magdalen College on the evening before elections.
The tribunal report deemed the gathering, which was attended by 20 to 30 people, including several candidates in the following day’s election, to be a deliberate attempt “to encourage all attendees to solicit votes from members of the Society the following day for those identified at the meeting.” Among those candidates at the meeting were the then Union President Luke Tryl, Charlie Holt, who was elected Secretary unopposed, and Corey Dixon, who was elected Treasurer.
Whilst union rules are vague as to precisely what is permissible with regards to gathering votes, the tribunal made it clear that the soliciting of votes from anyone other than close personal friends is not allowed.
In their official report the panel stated, “We simply reject the Defendant’s assertion that his meeting was a meeting between close personal friends, or that it was a meeting to have the sort of discussion which might be had between close personal friends.”
Omkar was also criticised for sending out an email which contained the names of Union members in Merton College.
The panel decided that it was used to approach people and systematically solicit votes. In an unprecedented move the tribunal also disqualified Omkar from standing in all future Union elections. Omkar strongly denied any suggestion that he had acted improperly by holding a drinks party on the night before last term’s election.
The 5000- word official report released after the tribunal criticises Omkar for “lack of integrity” and “arrogance as he appeared before us.” Omkar appealed the decision, but a second panel that met on Saturday December 15 upheld the tribunal’s findings in full, although they did consult the original prosecuting panel about the severity of the sentence.
Omkar argued before both panels that he was simply being penalised for what was accepted common practice in the Union.
The Union’s Returning Officer received a signed confession from Union debater Jessica Lund stating that she sent a text message to seven people that read, “Please, please, for a more open, democratic Union, vote Charlotte Fischer for President. You won’t regret it, and it will make me very happy. Thank you. Xxx”. Fischer denies asking anybody to send a message on her behalf, and there is no evidence linking Fischer to Lund’s actions.
Fischer depicts uglier side of Union in farewell letter
In a 3000-word resignation letter to Standing Committee written on Monday night, Fischer accused Krishna Omkar and other members of spreading “his own distorted projection of who I am.”
She also alleges that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by committee members. In one part of the letter, she wrote:
“It has become more difficult to be involved in the Union more recently because of the actions of some of the members of Standing Committee. Most recently I have continued to receive text and Facebook messages from several members of the standing committee asking if I “fancy a fuck?” When I called the member whose phone the original messages were sent from, I received no answer, only further messages asking me if “that was an offer of phone sex gorgeous?”… In the context of the ongoing controversy and conflict I have with many of the members of Standing Committee I feel it was insensitive at best and outrageously obnoxious at worst.”
A source on Standing committee said he felt the comments had been taken out of context. In a response to Fischer’s letter Omkar said, “I have no desire to launch personal attacks against any individual through the medium of the press… With full respect to the tribunal, the decision of which remains unimpeached, last term’s election returned an unprecedented and overwhelming democratic mandate, of which I am mindful and for which I will always remain grateful.