Academics boycott Oxford University college for failing to remove Cecil Rhodes statue

Group of 150 lecturers refuse to teach Oriel College students over Rhodes' colonial links

Campaigners want the Cecil Rhodes statue taken down because they say he represented white supremacy and colonialism. Getty
Campaigners want the Cecil Rhodes statue taken down because they say he represented white supremacy and colonialism. Getty

A group of 150 academics have announced they are boycotting a University of Oxford college and refusing to teach its students over a failure to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes.

The protest came after its governing body said last month it would keep the statue due to the “financial challenges” of removing it.

Campaigners want the statue taken down because they say Rhodes, a 19th-century businessman and politician in southern Africa, represented white supremacy and colonialism.

The academics said they would boycott tutorials for Oriel’s undergraduate students and refuse to provide assistance for any outreach work, including interviewing candidates.

They pledged to withdraw from all talks, seminars and conferences organised by Oriel and boycott recruitment and assessment processes for fellowships.

Robert Gildea, professor of modern history at Oxford, said the boycott was designed to pressure the college into removing the statue as all other attempts had failed.

“The statue is not acceptable to Oriel students themselves, it’s not acceptable to many people in other colleges who are making huge efforts to increase diversity and inclusion,” he told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.

“There is plenty that is done and has been done [at the university], it’s just that Oriel College seems to be out on a limb.”

An inquiry commissioned by the college recommended the statue should be removed.

The academics said Oriel’s decision not to remove the statue undermined efforts to eradicate racism at the university.

“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,” they said.

“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.”

Announcing its decision to keep the statue three weeks ago, Oriel said the time frame and cost were “considerable obstacles”.

“The governing body has carefully considered the regulatory and financial challenges, including the expected time frame for removal, which could run into years with no certainty of outcome, together with the total cost of removal,” the college said.

In a separate dispute at Oxford on Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait at Magdalen College was taken down because of the monarch’s “colonial links”.

Members of the Magdalen College Middle Common Room, which is made up of graduate students, overwhelmingly voted to remove the artwork.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the move was “completely absurd”.

Updated: June 10, 2021 04:05 PM


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