Adi Kesaia Toganivalu, the treasurer of The Oxford Union, has resigned in the wake of the Debra Soh controversy as senior officers intend to go ahead with the event

This comes after the previous treasurer also resigned this term, following controversy over the invitation and then cancellation of Graham Linehan and allegations of bullying. 

An abridged version of Toganivalu’s statement reads:

“I hereby resign the Office of Treasurer. It has not been any easy decision to make, and it really has been an honour to hold two officer positions this term. The Oxford Union represented, for me, one of the greatest accolades of my time at university. 

“I bring my tenure to a premature end because I cannot continue its legacy in good faith. We as a committee have shied away from responsibility when, at the bare minimum the truth has been asked of us. The invitation of Debra Soh has brought to the forefront many troubling issues. Why is it that when a speaker whose views so strongly affected the LGBTQIA community was invited, the Oxford Union’s LGBTQIA Officer was not consulted? You can believe in free speech and still believe in showing compassion to a minority group, of which some of our members belong to. 

“The Oxford Union is a society of The University of Oxford, and we should have worked harder to work with our fellow students rather than in spite of them. Why is it that a leadership meeting was held about the invitation of Graham Linehan, but not about the fallout of that illegal gathering? Why did no member of committee, who gave personal testimony to me that there was a party come forward and bring it to the attention of committee? I have often felt like a joke on this Committee, with the way everyone has treated the party like an open-secret, and as though I am just a joke for wanting us to be better. 

“This term has seen the Oxford Union plagued with scandal after scandal, and I feel I can no longer do any good as an Officer of this Committee.”

There have also been rumours of more resignations from committee members to follow in the coming days. The Oxford Union’s decision to invite Debra Soh to give an address this term has been met with widespread criticism, not only among the student community but within the Union’s members. The organisation’s leadership responded to this criticism by pledging to set up a ‘task-force’ dedicated to ensuring that LGBTQ concerns are put to Soh during her address, but, as Toganivalu’s resignation demonstrates, this does not seem to have fully quelled the discontent.

Toganivalu told the Blue, “My resignation means nothing. It means nothing at all. This term, the election will roll back around and the same committee members who knew of the illegal gathering or were in attendance themselves, will ask for your votes. I was out of the running a good while ago, but in spite of the scandals, I stayed on as a matter of pride and out of a belief I could do better work from within. I was wrong, and I refuse to be part of it anymore. Eventually you have to put your own happiness first.”

James Price, President of the Union, said: “I want to thank the Treasurer for her efforts this term, and wish her well in her future endeavours. A constructive meeting of the Union’s access committee discussed the invitation of Dr Soh at length, and ended parsimoniously, with the agreement that the Committee would work on a task force to extensively prepare me for the interview. I’m very proud of the Committee for showing its’ ability to disagree well.”

This story was amended at 19:57 GMT on 22nd January to include comment from the now ex-treasurer.

Anvee Bhutani

Anvee Bhutani is the former Managing Director of The Oxford Blue, having also held a variety of roles on the editorial and business teams. She is a penultimate year student at Magdalen College reading Human Sciences and is originally from San Francisco, California. To reach out to her, please email [email protected]