One of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious debating societies has been slammed after a blind Ghanaian postgraduate student was ‘dragged by his ankles’ and thrown out of a debate in a ‘disgraceful’ incident.
Ebenezer Azamati was expelled from a debate at the Oxford Union after he attempted to attend a talk on the motion ‘This House has no confidence in HM Government’. Oxford University said: “The Oxford Union is an independent society. The university has no control over its events.”
The 25-year-old arrived early at St John’s College on October 17 to reserve a seat as he was worried there were no special provisions for disabled students. He placed a book on an accessible seat near the entrance to the chamber to reserve it and went back to his college for dinner.
When he returned later, accompanied by a friend and sat down, officials refused his attendance and were seen manhandling him out of his seat. Mr Azamati, who is a postgraduate from Ghana studying international relations, became distressed at the situation.
Video footage from the event shows the student’s white cane to be visible, while an official pulls him out of his seat. Azamati has since said he feels ‘unwelcome’ in Britain following the incident.
This is while campaign groups such as the Oxford University Africa society, have protested on his behalf.
Now, the union president, Brendan McGrath, is facing calls to resign while other senior university staff claimed the behaviour of the Oxford Union was hindering the institutions chances of attracting more ethnic minority and working class students.
The Oxford Union has previously been home to alumni such as Boris Johnson and David Cameron, and has traditionally been a place where students go to hone their debating skills.
Following the incident last month, Mr McGrath called a disciplinary committee, where it was alleged that Azamati had behaved aggressively and thrusted his arms out as he was being ejected from his seat.
Azamati’s membership was suspended for two terms and he told The Times that he wasn’t treated as a human. “In being publicly removed from the Oxford Union Society made me feel unwelcome in the Union, Oxford and even the country. I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment.”
At the appeal on Saturday it was alleged that Azamati “acted in alarm as a blind man who had been assaulted.” The appeal also stated that “a white blind man would not have been treated that way.”
Witnesses who were at the debate testified at the appeal who claimed Mr Azamati was being “dragged by his ankles.” In a statement Oxford Union said it apologised “unreservedly for the distress caused.” events.”