Oriel College to keep Rhodes statue

Oxford college says it has received an ‘overwhelming message’ in favour of keeping the statue standing

January 29, 2016
Rhodes bust in Oxford
Source: Wikipedia
The 1906 plaque praising “the great services rendered by Cecil Rhodes to his country” which Oriel college has also decided to keep up

Oriel College, Oxford has decided to keep a controversial statue of the Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes in place after months of debate about whether it should be torn down.

In a statement, Oriel said that after asking for views on the statue last December, it had received an “overwhelming message” in support of its remaining in place.

“Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place, and that the College will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there,” it said.

A separate plaque on Oriel property that commemorates Rhodes would also remain, the college said, even though the university had agreed in December to take it down because it was “inconsistent with our principles”.

“The college believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artefacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today,” the college said.

“By adding context, we can help draw attention to this history, do justice to the complexity of the debate, and be true to our educational mission.”

The statement did not address claims, reported in The Daily Telegraph, that college alumni had threatened to withdraw donations to Oriel if the statue was taken down.

The group campaigning for the statue’s removal, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford, said this morning that Oriel’s decision was “outrageous, dishonest, and cynical”.

“Oriel College has breached the undertakings it gave to all students in its December statement,” the group said on its Facebook page. “In December, Oriel said that the plaque’s display was ‘inconsistent with’ the College’s ‘principles’. It seems that Oriel no longer believes this to be the case.

“This is not over. We will be redoubling our efforts and meeting over the weekend to discuss our next actions,” the group said. 

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

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