Eleanor Harding, Daily Mail, December 18, 2015
An Oxford college is to remove a plaque dedicated to the 19th century imperialist Cecil Rhodes after students said it was ‘racist’.
The monument, on a building owned by Oriel College, was erected in 1906 in recognition of the vast sums of money the mining magnate left to the university.
But campaigners claim that forcing ethnic minority students to walk past it on their way to lectures amounts to ‘violence’ because the college benefactor believed in colonialism.
The university has also said it will consider demands to tear down a statue of Rhodes that stands at the entrance to the college.
A statement from Oriel said: ‘The College does not share Cecil Rhodes’s values or condone his racist views or actions. We commit to ensuring that acknowledgement of the historical fact of Rhodes’s bequest to the College does not suggest celebration of his unacceptable views and actions, and we commit to placing any recognition of his bequest in a clear historical context.
‘We are starting the process of consultation with Oxford City Council this week in advance of submitting a formal application for consent to remove the Rhodes plaque.
Its wording is a political tribute, and the College believes its continuing display on Oriel property is inconsistent with our principles.’
Rhodes, an advocate of colonial power in Africa, has been accused of helping to pave the way for apartheid. A diamond miner, he was an ardent expansionist of British influence and was the founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia).
As an Oxford graduate, he left money to the university. Many overseas students–including former US president Bill Clinton, the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and the singer Kris Kristofferson–have studied there on Rhodes Scholarships.
The campaign to remove the Oxford statue follows a similar university protest in South Africa and has been led by a group called Rhodes Must Fall. At the University of Cape Town, a statue of Rhodes was attacked and eventually taken down.
The Oxford campaigners argue that the views of the politician are incompatible with an ‘inclusive culture’ at the university.
A spokesman said: ‘We note with excitement that the pressure mounted on Oriel College this past term by Rhodes Must Fall Oxford has led the college to a decision that it will immediately remove a plaque of racist and murderous colonialist–Cecil Rhodes–from a college building.’
While the plaque is not listed, the college needs the council’s permission to remove it because it sits in a conservation area. The college said it would now begin a six-month consultation about the statue. But as the building has listed status, it may be that nothing can be changed.
‘In the short term, we have put up a temporary notice in the window of the High Street building, below the statue, clarifying its historical context and the college’s position on Rhodes,’ the college said.
Annie Teriba, a Rhodes Must Fall campaigner, said earlier this year: ‘There’s a violence to having to walk past the statue every day on the way to your lectures, there’s a violence to having to sit with paintings of former slave holders whilst writing your exams.’