The Cambridge Union has cut ties with the Glasgow University Union after one of its debaters was subject to a torrent of sexist abuse at the debating club last weekend.

The Glasgow University Union buildingFinlay McWalter

The annual Glasgow Ancients competition sees forty teams of student debaters assemble to do battle for two days. During the final of the competition on Saturday night, Rebecca Meredith, a third year PPS student at King’s College, and her debating partner were faced with heckles from some members of the audience.

“Shame woman”, shouted members of the audience, while others booed at the mention of gender equality in the debate on the motion “this house regrets the centralisation of religion”. Afterwards, one Glasgow member is reported to have said “get that woman out of my union” in reference to Marlene Valle, Meredith’s co-debater, and others made comments regarding their appearance.

Writing on Facebook on Sunday, Meredith said she and Valle, a student at Edinburgh University, were targeted “by a small number of misogynistic male Glasgow Union debaters” and that the incident was evidence that “sexism is not just something we talk about - it is something real people experience everyday.”

According to Meredith, the organisers of the Glasgow University Union debate dismissed complaints about the behaviour of audience members, responding that such comments were “par for the course” and “to be expected”. Founded in 1885, the Glasgow University Union (GUU) only began admitting female members in 1980, while the Cambridge Union opened its doors to women in 1963, going on to elect its first female president in 1967.

On Monday night the Cambridge Union published a statement announcing it had rescinded reciprocal membership rights for members of the GUU, and that Cambridge will no longer send any debaters to the GUU unless Glasgow makes a public apology and pursues disciplinary action against the hecklers.

The Cambridge Union said Meredith and her debating partner “were subject to egregious and utterly unacceptable sexist interruptions from certain audience members. These audience members openly booed and hissed during each of their speeches, and made openly chauvinistic remarks concerning both the content of the speeches and the speakers themselves.”

In a letter to the GUU’s president, the Cambridge Union president, Ben Kentish, expressed “incredible disappointment at the fact that this incident occurred in the first place and that there has been no official response on your part”.

Ashish Kumar, Pembroke second year and Cambridge debater, told Varsity: "To be honest I was pretty shocked by this. Generally the vast majority of debaters in the UK debating circuit are very aware of misogyny -- at least from my experience."

"My impression is that there is something amiss at the GUU, though I wasn't there and can't be sure. I've been told that at previous events they've held they had phrases on slides that went 'proudly admitting women since 1980' with the word 'proudly' crossed out. GUU was the last major student union to move away from all-male membership."

Meredith has now launched an online survey to canvass responses from those who have been the subject of, or witness to, sexism in the debating world. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph the chief judge of the Glasgow debating competition, John Beechinor, said he was now “ashamed” to be connected with the event.

On Monday the president of the Glasgow Union commented: "GUU is now investigating the incident and will take disciplinary action against any member whose conduct was found to be improper. I would like to apologise on behalf of GUU for any speakers or attendees who felt offended.”

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