Oxford academics boycott Oriel College for keeping Cecil Rhodes statue
"Rhodes will fall" reads protest signs
Over one hundred lecturers are refusing to teach at Oriel College due to their repeated refusal to remove the Cecil Rhodes statue. The academics have been met with much criticism, but also tremendous support from students, fellow academics, and the general public.
In May, the college stated that they did not intend to remove the statue because of the complex costs and planning restrictions. This was rightly met with criticism from the wider community of academics, resulting in a straight-up boycott of the college.
Cecil John Rhodes was a stringent believer in British imperialism, which led him to become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896.
While at Oxford, Rhodes wrote the following:
“I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race. I contend that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence.”
Because the college refuses to remove the statue, teachers will no longer teach seminars, do outreach, complete interviews, or do admission recruitment.
In a statement put forward by the academics, they said: “The collegiate university can only effectively and credibly work to eradicate racism and address the ongoing effects of colonialism today if all the colleges do so. Oriel College’s decision not to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes undermines us all.
“Despite votes in favour from its student common rooms and despite an earlier vote of the governing body expressing their wish to remove it, Oriel has now decided not to.
“Faced with Oriel’s stubborn attachment to a statue that glorifies colonialism and the wealth it produced for the college, we feel we have no choice but to withdraw all discretionary work and goodwill collaborations.”
Tim Loughton, a former education minister, told the Times: “This is academic blackmail by a group of academics who think their own political views should trump everyone else’s, and if they don’t get their own way then any innocent students who happen to fall within their boycott will become the victims.”
This ongoing issue is similar to a debate surrounding a portrait of the Queen at Magdalen college. “For some students, depictions of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history,” said the students.
As institutions begin to analyse their pasts, there is undoubtedly a history of oppression they must address. For some, this could be the removal of figureheads that perpetuated such hateful rhetoric. However, claiming that the removal would be too expensive is an easy cop-out.
A group of teenagers and protesters successfully toppled and then sank a statue of Edward Coulston, so saying it isn’t feasible doesn’t really cut it. I am sure they would be more than happy to complete the task for you.