Oxford Union Librarian Mahi Joshi has released a statement today condemning the behaviour of President Brendan McGrath over the treatment of blind postgraduate student Ebenezer Azamati. Azamati was forcibly removed from the No-Confidence Debate earlier this term and stripped of his membership.
In a statement calling for the President’s resignation, Mahi Joshi told Cherwell: “Today an impeachment motion was called against the President of the Union, Brendan McGrath. The treatment of Ebenezer Azamati before the No Confidence Debate last month was shocking and the Union’s conduct in the aftermath was shameful and inexcusable.
“Brendan should resign to avoid deepening the crisis, and to take responsibility for this egregious mismanagement. I personally, deeply condemn the way in which Mr Azamati was treated by the Union. It breaks my heart that someone should have been made to feel unwelcome in the Union, let alone in the country, on the basis of who they are.
“Last year, a number of us supported Brendan for President in the belief that he would make the Union a more welcoming and friendly place. Despite his efforts, his position has become untenable. The committee has worked very hard to ensure our members are well-served, and we have failed terribly.
“What took place was a terrible failure of empathy, and it is something for which we all share the blame. In light of the impeachment motion, the President needs to resign.”
This statement comes amidst several committee resignations over Mr Azamati’s treatment, including the Secretary Chengkai Xie, members of Standing Committee Arjun Bhardwaj and Jeremy Mbararia, and the Director of Operations, Director of Press, and Chief of Staff.
Secretary Chengkai Xie also addressed McGrath in a statement of resignation, stating: “Your actions and those of the officers who supported you fall short of any standard of human decency.
“I imprudently took your word when you promised to treat Mr. Ebenezer Azamati and the members of the committee with respect. You locked us out of the decisionmaking process and pursued a course of action that was deeply humiliating and unfair to Mr. Azamati. As a result, I find myself left with no choice but to tender my resignation as an officer of the Oxford Union, and to call upon you to do the same.
“I hope that one day you recognise your mistakes, and that we as a Union can make amends for the pain and injustice we have caused.”
Shining Zhao, the current Treasurer, called for McGrath to resign while retaining his own position.
In a statement on Facebook, he said: “When the previous impeachment campaign was launched against Brendan, I was reluctant to take a side and eventually chose to vote “No” to impeaching Brendan, on the grounds of both good faith and belief that he would be able to help make the Union a better and cleaner environment.
“I come from a non-English-speaking educational background in China, and it has always been difficult putting thoughts into English words, particularly in ways that are not open to misinterpretation or twisting. To hear my accent, my speech mocked by those who speak English better than I do is a painful experience that I have always associated with racism – so I could only imagine the pain Mr. Azamati must have felt as he was violently dragged out of the Union, of the chamber where speech is supposedly free for all. I cannot, in good faith, stand by the Union’s inaction and lack of response to Mr. Azamati’s treatment.
“In particular, the President’s handling of this matter has been frankly appalling.”
“I will remain to serve the rest of the Union membership in my place as Treasurer of this society. Yet I will not hesitate to assume collective responsibility and acknowledge that as senior officers, we are all at fault here. I vow to fight my tooth and claw to represent the voices of underrepresented members in the Standing Committee of this society. If this means political isolation and badmouthing are coming my way, then so be it. But it would be ludicrous for me to not take a stance, and speak my mind over this matter.
“Brendan McGrath, in my honest opinion, is ill-suited to serve as President of this society. He should resign with immediate effect.”