An Oxford Union Standing Committee member has been found guilty of two charges brought against him by a member of staff at the Purple Turtle nightclub.
The member, a first year from St John’s, was found guilty of “behaviour…liable to distress, offend or intimidate” and “disorderly behaviour” in light of his actions outside the Purple Turtle nightclub on 12 May. James Donnelly, the Head Door Supervisor at the Purple Turtle, alleged that student was too drunk to enter the club, an allegation which he denied. The Disciplinary Committee found insufficient evidence in support of the allegation.
In a meeting of the Union’s Disciplinary Committee, open to all Union members, the student was fined £100 and banned from the Purple Turtle nightclub for the rest of Trinity Term.
He was found not guilty of a further three charges including “conduct liable to offend” and “abuse of office.” These charges were in relation to claims that the member falsely claimed he was Muslim and also Treasurer of the Union in order to try and win access to the club.
Cherwell was first made aware that the Oxford Union would be holding a disciplinary hearing through an anonymous email. The email was sent using GuerrillMail.com on Monday evening.
The email read: “A nice hack-hating front page is fun to publish once in a while. The best thing is it could even go national. Remember Maddie Grant?”
“Maddie Grant” refers to Madeline Grant, a student at St Hilda’s, who was fined £120 by the Union last Trinity for using “I don’t hack, I just have a great rack” in an election manifesto. The story was covered by national publications including the Daily Mail.
The anonymous email targeting targetting the committee member, who is understood to be running for Treasurer in 7th week’s Union elections, detailed the time and place of the disciplinary hearing, which was open to members of the Union.
The sender of the email remains unknown.
In his official statement, Donnelly accuses the member of numerous acts of misconduct. Donnelly claims he tried to gain entry to the Purple Turtle by saying he was “treasurer of the Oxford Union and that he had rights”, and then proceeded to raise his voice when he was not allowed entry, due to “over intoxication”.
Donnelly goes on to allege that the Standing Committee member said he “did not believe he was drunk and that he is in fact a Muslim.” Donnelly states that he found this “offensive, as I myself am not English and receive a lot of racial abuse in my profession.”
Further to this, Donnelly’s statement reads that the Union Committee member then threatened “that we would get into trouble” if the bouncers didn’t allow him access to the club. It also states that he “tried forcefully to take a photo of the staff” and that a Union representative, who arrived to rectify the situation “was left disturbed by the gentlemen’s behaviour.”
In his statement, the committee member claims that he “chose to only drink two plastic cups of wine” on the night in question. He states that he was “sober” and “couldn’t really understand why I had been refused entry.”
However, the statement also reads that “I undoubtedly made myself a nuisance, for which I would like to apologise.” The committee member denies in the statement that he claimed he was the Treasurer of the Oxford Union. He also denies that he claimed he was Muslim, stating “I know how explosive an allegation racism [sic] can be…I am not even a Muslim.” He goes on to say the allegation that he threatened the jobs of the door staff was “easily the most hurtful of the allegations on a personal level.”
Both the committee member himself and Donnelly, along with another staff member of Purple Turtle, were both present at the hearing, which took place on Tuesday afternoon at the Union. The committee member called two witnesses, both Oxford students, who testified that they had seen him sober earlier in the night.
There were many areas of disagreement between the claimant and defendant but the use of CCTV as evidence was ruled out as the hearing wasn’t a criminal procedure.
After discussion in camera, the disciplinary panel found the student guilty of the two charges mentioned, and stated that there was “reasonable” doubt as to the claim of racism and abuse of office, of which he was found not-guilty.
A member of the disciplinary panel stated that “I don’t think it’s acceptable for a member of standing committee on a moral level to stay and distress members of staff…just to try and make a point” and that he “stayed longer than any reasonable person would do.”
the student declined to give the Cherwell a comment.
The Oxford Union’s President Joseph D’Urso stated, “The Intermediate Disciplinary Committee found the Elected Member from St John’s College guilty of infringing rule 71)a)i)1) in one instance, and rule 71)j) in another. He was found not guilty of three other charges. A fine has been imposed, the matter is now conclusively settled, and I have every faith he will continue performing his duties to the high standards I have come to expect from him. I thank the IDC panel members for their time.”
The Purple Turtle also did not wish to give a statement.