Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Home News UK

Oxford campaigners refuse to back down over Cecil Rhodes statue

Published 01/02/2016

The statue can be seen on the front of Oriel College
The statue can be seen on the front of Oriel College

Campaigners have said they will redouble efforts to remove a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes from an Oxford University college, warning that it is critical for the institution to "reckon with its past".

The Rhodes Must Fall In Oxford group also accused Oriel College of "selling out" by deciding to keep the statue before a consultation had taken place.

The governing body of the college announced last week that it had decided following "careful consideration" to keep the statue after receiving an "overwhelming" amount of support to do so.

But at a meeting on Monday morning, the campaign group attacked the decision and said it would not be backing down.

It set out a series of seven demands, as well as calling for the statue's removal. These include asking Oxford to "acknowledge and confront its role in the ongoing physical and ideological violence of empire" as well as changes to the university's application processes and bias training for all academic staff.

Sarah Atayero, one of the campaign organisers, said: "We are not backing down and we will be redoubling our efforts to take the struggle to the university as a whole.

"We continue to believe that the removal and relocation of the monument to Cecil Rhodes is critical for Oxford to reckon with its past, and for Oxford to acknowledge the present-day issues it faces around racism and representation."

Oriel College has dismissed reports that donors had threatened to withdraw gifts and bequests worth more than £100 million if it was removed, saying the financial implications were "not even a major factor" in the decision.

But the Rhodes Must Fall In Oxford group accused the university of selling out, arguing that students have not been given a chance to voice their views on the statue in the promised consultation.

"Instead what has occurred is a dictatorship of donors," the group claimed.

It added: "Oriel has challenged the claim that funding threats influenced its decision. However, if Oriel faced no funding pressures, why not wait until the end of the six-month listening process?

"Oriel has been rushed into this decision by the irresponsible threats of wealthy individuals.

"Put simply - Oriel sold out."

At a meeting held at Regent's Park College in Oxford on Monday morning, the campaign group said it had put together seven demands based on a previously held general assembly, adding that it will be holding further assemblies on the issue in the future.

The demands are:

:: For Oxford to apologise and confront its role in "the ongoing physical and ideological violence of empire" as well as increasing scholarships for black students from Southern Africa.

:: A commitment to "recontextualising iconography celebrating figures of grace injustice".

"Murderous colonists and slave-holders belong in books and museums, not on the sides of buildings. This requires the removal and rehousing of statues and portraits and the renaming of buildings."

The group said they do not have or intend to draw up a list of other monuments and plaques they should be removed.

:: A curriculum which allows students to study the work of a wide group of people from different backgrounds.

:: Representation for people of colour at all levels of the university, as well as blind applications in which the institution does not know the background of would-be students and bias training for all academic staff.

:: Race workshops for all incoming student groups to prevent racism on campus, along with an effective system for reporting incidents of racism.

:: For the work of anti-racist staff and students to be recognised, including payment for their work, a specific sabbatical position for race at the university's student union and a paid tutor for race positions.

:: The campaign group said it is also calling for smear campaigns against the movement and its members to stop.

Rhodes was a student at Oxford and a member of Oriel College in the 1870s. He left money to the college on his death in 1902. Scholarships in his name have so far been awarded to more than 8,000 overseas students.

Rhodes served as prime minister of the British Empire's Cape Colony, including South Africa, in the early 1890s and has been linked to apartheid-style policies.

The college has distanced itself from Rhodes' views, saying in a statement in December: "Rhodes was also a 19th century colonialist whose values and world view stand in absolute contrast to the ethos of the scholarship programme today, and to the values of a modern university."

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph