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All three major Union committees pass motions declaring Oxford Union is ‘institutionally racist’

The Oxford Union’s Consultative Committee (CC), Standing Committee, and Secretary’s Committee each passed motions on Monday noting that the Union is “institutionally racist” following allegations of Islamophobic comments.

Graduate Officer Sarah Rana resigned following ex-president-elect Ebrahim Osman-Mowafy’s allegation that the Clerk – a colloquial term for Acting Returning Officer – of a Union tribunal panel said: “we’re going remove Ebrahim…. he’s not gonna appoint a hijabi girl as his Chief of Staff.”

Rana, one of three hijabi women on committee and the seconder of the CC motion, wrote in her resignation letter: “I cannot in good conscience symbolically be part of this committee that fails to protect its Arab and Muslims members… I feel unsafe, disillusioned, used, and extremely disturbed.

“In the wake of rising anti-Arab racism, and discrimination against Muslim and Arab students, these actions against Ebrahim are racially motivated and Islamophobic. The Union advocates so fiercely for free speech and openness but the Union’s tribunal is contradicting the institution’s very values.”

Osman-Mowafy and three Oxford Union ex-presidents of colour – Michael Akolade-Ayodeji, Ahmad Nawaz, and Adam Roble – had signed a letter alleging that recent Union proceedings have been “disproportionately targeting individuals from non-traditional backgrounds.” The letter also cites findings in the Azamati Governance Report, which follows the manhandling of a blind Black student in 2019.

In the early morning hours, Osman-Mowafy was disqualified from the role of President-elect in proceedings he alleged were “steeped in nothing but racism, islamophobia and persistent bias.”

In the Standing Committee meeting, the Senior Officers said that upon receiving reports of these allegations being “in some bar or some pub,” they contacted the alleged speaker of the comments who “totally and emphatically refuted the truth of these allegations” and said that instead they heard it. The Senior Officers took no further action because they are not an investigative unit.

A member pointed out that in the two elections she’s voted in, both elected presidents were then removed, to which many members in the room responded with a round of applause. There will be an appeal to the tribunal’s decision, according to the Senior Officers.

In a speech at the motion, an ex-President said that, “speaking directly to the RO World [the Returning Officer, deputies, and assistants]” a certain group has made others of certain backgrounds feel like they are not part of an “in group.” He also expresses concern that people can no longer speak freely – attendees at the meeting could not even name Osman-Mowafy or the Clerk despite consistent references to them. The Standing Committee responded with a round of applause and passed a motion expressing its lack of confidence in the RO.
Cherwell has contacted the Union and the Clerk for comments.

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