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    OULGBTQ+ secretarial election plagued by misinformation

    Cherwell News reports.

    CW: Bullying, transphobia

    The current candidate for Secretary for the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society has suffered from the spread of alleged misinformation surrounding her campaign, with both messages and posts on public forums describing her as an “evangelical Christian” and “right wing (American) Republican.” 

    Juliet Dyrud (she/her) served on the general committee of the Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society in the role of Trans Rep from 2021-2022, and is currently the unopposed candidate for the executive committee position of Secretary. 

    She told Cherwell “I am not an evangelical Christian. Before coming up to Oxford I was never involved in any religious institution (church or otherwise). I have since joined my college’s non-denominational chapel but have not otherwise engaged with religion. 

    “I am also neither Republican, nor right-wing.” 

    The candidate first became aware of the alleged misinformation about her circulating on the evening of January 29, following her hustings for the election. The answer that received the most attention within the successive messages and posts was to the question “would you uphold a promise not to collaborate with the Union?” to which the candidate responded, “I think that the union is a case of an organisation that I don’t know if it holds our core values,” and “I think I would have to see some substantive positive change in the areas of inclusion.” 

    A number of messages surfaced in a group chat containing LGBTQ+ representatives from various colleges, beginning with an inquiry from one student, asking “anyone know who the Republicans/OUCA/Union LGBTQ+ Soc[iety] candidates are?” which she was able to subsequently answer, stating “I think it’s the person running for sec who might be the Republican,” coupled with, “RON [Reopen Nominations] the Sec.” 

    Another student commented “[As far as I know] she’s an evangelical christian & right wing (American) Republican and wants to collab with OICCU [Oxford Intercollegiate Christian Union], the famously homophobic one.” The candidate referred to this message in particular as ‘bullying,’ stating that it was both irrelevant and triggering of unpleasant past memories regarding her family’s politics. 

    The student continued the conversation, stating “I won’t feel protected by the society if they have people on committee collaborating with conservative groups like OUCA and the Union … Juliet on committee will be a massive step back.”

    At the same time, posts on the anonymous public forum Oxfess began to surface, such as “Feel so uncomfortable [right now] with a Union hack and a Republican running uncontested for LGBT Soc Exec,” and “Can’t wait for the LGBTQ+ Soc x OUCA collaboration with these Soc Exec candidates.” 

    When asked whether she has ever intended, or currently intends, to collaborate in your capacity as a committee member with The Oxford Union, The Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), or The Oxford Intercollegiate Christian Union (OICCU), the candidate confirmed to Cherwell “I have neither intended nor currently intend to collaborate with any of these groups listed. I have never attended events hosted or in collaboration with the Oxford Union or the Oxford University Conservative Association. I have attended an OICCU-organised event on one occasion but am neither involved with them nor on their mailing list.” 

    While it cannot be confirmed where these instances of the alleged misinformation definitively originated, the candidate told Cherwell that “the misinformation has alienated me from many friends and acquaintances who happen to be LGBT+ who heard the misinformation, assumed they were true, and came to false conclusions.” 

    “Defending my reputation to so many people who are now questioning my integrity is a huge burden on my time and energy for an ostensibly apolitical election.” 

    Section 7F of the OULGBTQ+ Society’s constitution reads: “Committee members must be aware that they are representing the Society. Whilst acting within the capacity of their roles, all Committee members must remember the necessity of the Society remaining apolitical.” At least one instance of the alleged misinformation originated from people on the Society committee, which led the candidate to the conclusion that the actions of the people messaging misinformation “clearly politicise the society.” 

    The candidate told Cherwell “the behaviour of the current Society executive committee members does not accurately reflect section 7F. Just as it is political to spread misinformation, it is also political to fail to act to prevent the spread of misinformation.”

    “Failing to spot the spread of obvious misinformation about a candidate in group-chats, where Soc committee members were acting within the capacity of their roles, is a political choice of the Society in violation of 7F. And this is exactly what happened.”

    When further asked about the reaction to the alleged misinformation by the current presiding Executive Committee, the candidate told Cherwell “The current Exec only contacted me in reply to a request I made to clarify an ambiguously worded question in the Society hustings, in which I was asked about two separate topics: collaboration with the Union, and collaboration with other societies. I made this request because the minutes implied that my response to the second part of the question also applied to the first part of the question.”   

    Regarding the messages and posts, the candidate said: “The LGBTQ+ Society president publicly replied to one instance of the allegations on Oxfess, telling people to rely on the hustings minutes to make an informed choice. However, no Exec committee member has yet replied to other Oxfesses which also referenced the elections. Further, no Exec committee member has yet replied to more egregious misinformation in private, even though they had seen the allegations and were also acting in their capacity as Exec. Just because some of these accusations were made in private does not mean that they would not influence the election.” 

    When approached for comment, the Executive Committee of OULGBTQ+ told Cherwell: “The OULGBTQ+ Society is absolutely committed to making the hustings and election process as fair as possible, and our election guidelines are very clear about treating all candidates with kindness and consideration. We do not tolerate online abuse, harassment or bullying, and this extends to anonymous election-relation posts, as per our Zero Tolerance Policy. Our rules make it very clear that if it is brought to us that somebody is posting abusive or harassing messages, they will be barred from elections and depending on the severity, may have further measures imposed after an evaluation by the Welfare Working Group. We do not, however, wish to silence those in our community who wish to bring genuine and respectful concerns about the candidates’ ability to represent them as this is necessary part of the election process.”

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