Cecil Rhodes: Oxford University to remove statue of imperialist after anti-racism protests

Campaigners argue 19th century imperialist glorified racism

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 17 June 2020 20:03 BST
Protesters call for removal of Cecil Rhodes statue in Oxford

The controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at a University of Oxford college is set to be removed following anti-racist protests.

Oriel College’s governing body announced its wish to remove the statue of the 19th century British imperialist and said it was launching an independent inquiry into the key issues surrounding the monument.

Demonstrations have recently taken place outside Oriel College calling for the statue to be removed from the High Street entrance of the building.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign received renewed support as Black Lives Matter protests spread across the UK following the death of George Floyd in the US.

The campaign argued the statue of Rhodes glorified racism, but the college has previously resisted calls to remove it.

Carole Souter, the current master of St Cross College and former chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will chair the independent commission.

In a statement, the governing body said: “The governing body of Oriel College has today voted to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.

“They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque. This is what they intend to convey to the independent commission of inquiry.

“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 commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of Bame undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st-century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.”

The commission will produce a report for the governing body by the end of the year, the statement continued.

It went on: “The commission is intending to draw upon the greatest possible breadth and depth of experience, opinion and background.

“The inquiry will, in turn, invite submissions from a broad range of stakeholders from Oxford itself and the country as a whole; the students, representatives of Rhodes Must Fall and Oxford City Council, as well as alumni of Oxford and Oriel and citizens of the city. Written and oral evidence will be requested.

“It is intended that some oral evidence sessions will be held in public, with similar rules of engagement to that of a parliamentary select committee.

“By setting up this commission, Oriel governing body is demonstrating that it is willing to be guided by all its stakeholders.

“The governing body believes that this decision will allow a serious, appropriate and productive resolution of a complex series of issues.”

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