Oxford’s Oriel College votes to remove Rhodes statue

Rhodes Must Fall campaigners say their ‘optimism is cautious’ after college announcement

June 18, 2020
Oriel College Oxford
Source: iStock

The governing body of Oriel College, Oxford, has voted in support of removing the statue of Cecil Rhodes from outside the college.

It also voted to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the key issues surrounding the statue, which honours the imperialist Rhodes.

“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 college’s statement says.

Campaigners from Oxford’s Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which began in 2015 after the success of the same movement at the University of Cape Town, said this was potentially an “epoch-defining moment” for the university.

However, they warned: “We have been down this route before, where Oriel College has committed to taking a certain action but not followed through: notably in 2015, when the college committed to engaging in a six-month-long listening exercise.

“While we remain hopeful, our optimism is cautious,” they said. “Until such time as the Rhodes statue ceases to adorn the facade of Oriel College on Oxford’s High Street, we will continue to galvanise the goodwill and energy seen across the university, particularly among an astonishingly wide variety of academics.”

Earlier this month, Baroness Amos, who will become the master of Oxford’s University College in August, said she agreed with the campaign to remove the statue of the “white supremacist” Rhodes.

In their statement, the campaigners said they reaffirmed their commitment “not only to the removal of imperial and colonial iconography, but also to the radical transformation of the academy”.

Academics and campaigners have told Times Higher Education that pulling down statues dedicated to slave traders and colonialists is only “the first step” in the decolonisation of higher education.

Oriel’s commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access for BAME undergraduates, postgraduate students and faculty, as well as a review of how the college’s modern commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.

It has appointed Carole Souter, the current master of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to lead the inquiry.


Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles

Buildings and statues dedicated to people whose views clash with modern values can cause difficulties, but is tearing down history the answer?

15 December