The Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) has faced intensifed criticism, after the latest accusations of drunk and disorderly behaviour.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, the Honorary President of the Association, has called for an investigation, telling Cherwell: “there is no excuse for this type of disgraceful behaviour”.
Meanwhile, St. Giles’ Church, the venue for OUCA’s weekly Port and Policy event, has confirmed to Cherwell that it is investigating claims made about conduct on its premises.
OUCA has confirmed that any information about potential incidents of sexual harassment has been passed to Oxford University authorities.
Two members have left the Association after complaints about their conduct at a 3rd week Port and Policy event.
One student was suspended by the society’s disciplinary committee after complaints of excessive drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
Another student resigned his membership after the same complaint. A complaint of sexual harassment was also raised against the student by a purported witness, but the disciplinary committee received no evidence to corroborate this claim.
According to an OUCA statement, both women in question submitted testimony “unequivocally denying” the complaint at a council meeting.
One of the women alleged to have been assaulted told an assembled OUCA meeting on Thursday night that the claims were “entirely untrue”, and that she was not consulted before the complaint was submitted.
On hearing of the continued reports of harassment and sexism, Jacob Rees-Mogg told Cherwell: “I would expect both the University and the Conservative party to investigate this and to apply appropriate sanctions to any university or Conservative party members who may have brought the Oxford University Conservative Association into disrepute.”
Rees-Mogg, current frontrunner for the Conservative party leadership, is Honorary President of OUCA. His nephew William Rees-Mogg is the ex-president of the Association.
The latest developments follow a statement regarding the society’s problem with sexual assault allegations, revealed by Cherwell last week.
At a council meeting two weeks ago, eleven current and former OUCA officeholders highlighted “a problem with sexism” in the society, claiming that multiple allegations of groping and harassment were “not being dealt with”.
The statement cited “numerous reports” that several attendees at 3rd week Port and Policy “groped, touched, kissed (or attempted to), or otherwise harassed female guests”. It also alleged that this has been a recurring issue.
However, when these issues were raised to other senior officers, it is alleged they were “dismissed due to fears of bad PR.”
The signatories claimed: “that senior members of the association have been ignoring sexism and misogyny, not because they are themselves sexist, but because they are worried about the public image of themselves and the association.”
In a statement, OUCA President Timothy Doyle told Cherwell: “It was reported that attendees [at third week Port and Policy] had been unacceptably drunk, had subjected other attendees to verbal abuse, and most seriously that incidents of sexual harassment took place.“
All these claims, especially the last, are deeply concerning, and describe behaviour fundamentally incompatible with the Association’s aims and values.
“All allegations of misconduct are taken very seriously by the Association. No allegation received has been or will be ignored.”
“I am determined that the Association be as welcoming an environment as possible.”
Referring specifically to the 3rd week Port and Policy event, he noted: “A particular group of individuals is widely reported to have behaved in an offensive manner at the event and afterwards.
“These individuals have not been regular attendees of Association events, and are not in any way representative of our Membership.
“They are no longer members and will not be permitted to attend our events as guests.”
A constitutional amendment to allow a vote of no-confdence in the president was also presented to the OUCA Council meeting last night.
The motion seeks to amend the constitution so a vote of no confidence can be brought against any president, though Cherwell understands those pushing for the reform are doing so with the intention of ousting Doyle.
Of this move, Doyle said: “I look forward to measured and constructive discussion in the proper manner of how to continue improving the Association’s procedures.”
Oxford SU’s VP for Women, Katy Haigh, joined those who have condemned the Association, telling Cherwell she was “extremely saddened” by sexual harassment allegations.
Haigh told Cherwell: “We want all students to treat people with dignity and respect at all times, any behaviour that does not meet those standards is unacceptable.”
A spokesperson for Oxford University told Cherwell: “University disciplinary processes are entirely confidential and we do not confrm or deny whether specific allegations are being investigated.
“However, we do not tolerate sexual harassment and will always investigate when a student brings forward a complaint of harassment at the University.
“We also offer comprehensive welfare support to students who complain of being harassed and can give advice on how to make a complaint.
“We can also advise student clubs and societies on their own disciplinary codes, which they should apply to ensure they conduct events in accordance with University’s Policies and Procedures on harassment.”
The Conservative party did not reply to multiple requests for comment.