Cecil Rhodes statue to remain at Oxford despite student campaign, Oriel College says

The governing body reportedly decide to keep controversial monument after donors threaten to withdraw £100m of funding

The statue of Cecil Rhodes at an Oxford college is to remain in place despite student protests after donors threatened to withdraw millions of pounds in funding if it was removed. 

Oriel College’s governing body has officially ruled against the statue’s removal despite the “Rhodes Must Fall” student campaign for its removal on racism grounds. 

The small but vocal group of student activists - led by Rhodes scholar Ntokozo Qwabe - had argued the image of Rhodes should be removed as he was a racist. 

It is part of a movement against the imperialist which started at the University of Cape Town in South Africa in March last year. 

But Oriel College was reportedly fearful that a promised £100m bequest by one donor could be in jeopardy if they gave in to the students demands, the Telegraph reports

Donors were already said to be furious about the college’s decision to remove a plaque to Rhodes. The College has now said the plaque will remain as well. 

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The Rhodes Must Fall campaign started with the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue in South Africa last year

The college initially announced a “six month listening exercise” over the future of the statue in December - which was due to begin next month - but they have now said the statue will remain in place “following careful consideration”.

The decision to consider the students’ demands provoked a debate about the importance of history and free speech with classicist and Cambridge professor Mary Beard saying it was a “completely barking” plan to “erase history”

At a meeting of the governing body on Wednesday, donors were told they had already potentially lost a £500,000 donation over their “ambiguous position” and another potential donor had stopped responding to their emails. 

It is unclear whether the college would have been able to remove the statue anyway as though it is Oriel College's property they would require listing building consent from Oxford City Council to remove it

Rhodes was a Victorian statesman, mining magnate and imperialist who founded a colony called Rhodesia in modern-day Zimbabwe and Zambia and ruled over another in modern-day South Africa and Namibia.

He also founded the modern day De Biers mining company and set up a scholarship programme for students from around the world to study at Oxford.   

A spokesman for the college told the Independent: "Since [the announcement of the listening exercise] we have received an enormous amount of input including comments from students and academics, alumni, heritage bodies, national and student polls and a further petition, as well as over 500 direct written responses to the College. 

"The overwhelming message we have received has been in support of the statue remaining in place, for a variety of reasons.

 "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 denied that it was facing financial difficulties and said it did not depend on donations to fund its operations.

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