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By Ian Cheong
Maddie Grant has severely criticised both the Union and the Student press in the wake of her disciplinary hearing at the debating society last Wednesday.
Grant was fined £120 for ‘bringing the Union into disrepute’ after she spoke to the press without the President’s permission following her controversial manifesto for the position of Librarian in which she claimed, “I don’t hack, I just have a great rack”.
In a front-page article from this week’s The Mail on Sunday, Maddie commented that the Union hearing was “ridiculous. They were treating it as though it was a scene from To Kill A Mockingbird ; some sort of moral crusade… They were relentless and totally unsympathetic – in fact, quite cruel.”
Talking to The Oxford Student Grant took her criticisms further explaining her decision to resign her membership of the Union: “They’ve already kind of fucked me over and I’m not going to pay £120 to remain in a society which hates me”.
Grant then went on to level further attacks at her “accuser”, Union President Izzy Ernst: “obviously she was completely within her rights as President to fine me, but I know she actually deliberately ran it through standing committee so that it wouldn’t look like the accusation had come from her.
“Although, apparently, she phrased it in such a way that one couldn’t really not pass it through because she said ‘the rules here have been violated you have to put it through’. She arranged the whole thing in such a way, by getting the permission of the Standing Committee, that it would look like a legitimate thing and less like a personal vendetta”
“I just think it was very misguided. I mean we’ve already learned that the public read crap and nothing is trashy enough or pointless enough for the national press not to run.”
Izzy Ernst released a statement responding to Grant’s allegations: “The President made a formal complaint and the disciplinary proceedings were brought against Ms Grant not because of her manifesto but because she broke Society rules by speaking to the press without the President’s permission whilst on Standing Committee.
“It is the President’s responsibility to bring any member to account for such a breach and to bring this to the awareness of a disciplinary committee. It is up to the disciplinary committee to decide whether the complaint is justified and to determine the extent of the punishment.
“Ms Grant’s actions in speaking to the press were undertaken deliberately in a way that was liable to bring the Society into disrepute. The disciplinary committee also found that during interviews with the press, Ms Grant made untruthful remarks about the society, which were in some instances offensive to individual members”
Ernst’s decision was also supported by Ex-President Izzy Westbury, who said: “The media interviews that Ms Grant undertook were done so both deliberately and in a way intent on making the Union look bad – so it was right to take action.
“The fact that every article in the national press has inferred that disciplinary action was taken as a result of Maddie’s ”rack” comment is absurd – it’s extremely misleading and it’s disappointing that this misconception was fuelled to the extent that it was.
“When I originally heard about the manifesto, I thought it was pretty funny - there have been joke manifestos in the past and this was nothing different.
Quite rightly, the Union made no judgement on this.
“But what breached the rules were the gratuitous attention-seeking press interviews that ensued, which deliberately set out to reinforce negative (and dare I say false) stereotypes of the Oxford Union – so damned right she should have been held to account.”
Despite these claims that Grant’s interactions with the press were ‘attention-seeking’, Grant told The Mail on Sunday that she was “devastated” when the story of her manifesto was broken in the national press.
Talking to The OxStu, Grant also criticised the manner in which she had been treated by Oxford’s student press: “The student journalists, particularly at Cherwell seem to be able to say ‘oh, look at this massive controversy’ because people have ticked these offensive boxes.
Then they get one of their close friends, who potentially doesn’t even exist, or they make a quote of their own, quote it, and then say ‘huge scandal sparked’ when, in fact, it’s them who have created it.”
Despite Grant’s claims, however, there is no evidence to suggest that Cherwell breached the PCC’s code of conduct in their original coverage of the story.
Responding to Grant’s claims Cherwell’s editors said “Cherwell is proud of the standards of journalistic integrity that all its reporters and editors uphold, and has complete faith in its articles, many of which are taken up and verified by national newspapers. We fully abide by the code of practice set out by the Press Complaints Commission which states that the press must not print inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.”
Grant also answered claims that she had manufactured the press attention for her own ends.
Questions had been raised in relation to an email sent by Grant to The OxStu on 28th February (2 days before Cherwell first broke the story) in which she said, “if I could get in this week it would be wonderful”.
Grant responded to these allegations saying: “With the email to The OxStu it was more just that I was running as an independent candidate, there were people hacking all across Oxford with 30 people to help them out across their slate. It was really just that I wanted to, not draw attention to myself, but because I thought at the time that it was quite funny and I thought The OxStu might think so too… I can honestly say I have not enjoyed any of this.”