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The statute of Cecil Rhodes in question.
The statute of Cecil Rhodes in question.
Image: PA Images

Removal of Cecil Rhodes statue backed by Oxford college

A statement by Oriel College yesterday said the governing body had voted in favour of launching an independent inquiry into controversy surrounding the monument of the British imperialist.
Jun 18th 2020, 7:05 AM 20,672 68

THE GOVERNING BODY of an Oxford University college has “expressed their wish” to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes, following a campaign for it to be taken down.

A statement by Oriel College yesterday said the governing body had voted in favour of launching an independent inquiry into controversy surrounding the monument of the British imperialist.

The college said it had “expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque” to the commission.

It follows a long-running campaign demanding the removal of the Rhodes statue, which gained renewed attention in recent weeks.

“The governing body of Oriel College has today voted to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue,” the statement said.

“They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque. This is what they intend to convey to the independent commission of inquiry.

“Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.

“The commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st-century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.”

The commission will be chaired by Carole Souter, the current master of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

A report for the governing body will be produced by the end of the year, the statement added.

Rhodes Must Fall

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign said the group was “optimistic” following the decision but urged the college to commit to removing the statue.

“However, we have been down this route before, where Oriel College has committed to taking a certain action, but has not followed through: notably, in 2015, when the college committed to engaging in a six-month-long democratic listening exercise,” a statement by the campaign said.

“Therefore, while we remain hopeful, our optimism is cautious.

“While the governing body of Oriel College have ‘expressed their wish’ to take down the statue, we continue to demand their commitment.”

Alan Rusbridger, principal of the university’s Lady Margaret Hall and former editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper, said it was the “right decision” and the start of a “longer conversation” at Oxford.

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“I hope they can find a good home for him where we can discuss him rather than (appear to) venerate him,” he tweeted.

Earlier yesterday, universities minister Michelle Donelan called campaigns to remove the statue “short-sighted”.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), she said: “Recent actions, such as renaming buildings named after Gladstone or campaigns to remove the statue of Rhodes, I think, are quite short-sighted.

“Because if we cannot rewrite our history, instead what we should do is remember and learn from it.”

Demonstrations have taken place outside Oriel College calling for the statue to be removed from the High Street entrance of the building, as well as anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd in the US.

A similar demonstration was held in Bristol, which saw protesters topple the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and throw it into a harbour.

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