Oxford University to Replace ‘Male, Pale and Stale’ Image with Gay, Female and Black Icons

Javier Espinoza, Telegraph, July 3, 2016

Oxford University is replacing portraits of famous men with gay, female and black icons to counter its ‘male, pale and stale’ image, it has emerged.

Earlier this year David Cameron, the Prime Minister, led calls for the university to take more ethnic minority students as figures revealed Oxford had only taken 27 black undergraduate students in 2014.

It followed calls from the Rhodes Must Fall movement to ‘decolonise’ the university’s curriculum.

The university has commissioned dozens of new portraits at a cost of £900 each, the Sunday Times reported. Staff and students have been ask to nominate ‘suitable subjects’ by the end of this week, it added. Separately, colleges already have new pictures and paintings of prominent figures, including the portrait of Libby Lane, the first female Anglican bishop, at St Peter’s College.

Lucy Banda Sichone and Norman Manley, two Rhodes scholars and activists, have also been placed on the walls of Rhodes House, it was reported.

A photo of Naomi Wolf, the feminist and Rhodes scholar, is expected to go on display in Rhodes House, the newspaper added.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Ms Wolf said: “In my college, New College, there are portraits of men everywhere.

“While pictures are not the same as gender or race equality, I do not think this is trivial. If all you see are white men, white men, white men, it is very hard to believe that people in your society think you have a place in history. Changing iconography helps to change how you see history.”

Portraits female journalists Amelia Gentleman and Hari Kunzru have also been put up at Wadham College.

Lord Macdonald, Wadham’s warden, told the publication: “I want to address the predominance of portraits of white men. These are grand figures and they deserve their place in our history. But Wadham is proud of its diversity and it’s time to reflect this in the portraits that adorn our walls.”

The paintings and photographs are part of Oxford University’s Diversifying Portraiture project, which was launched in 2014.

Its objective was to collect 250 existing portraits of those who had “challenged the stereotypes and preconceptions of their times” and putting them online.

Stephen Goss, Oxford’s provice-chancellor for personnel and equality, told the Sunday Times the portraits would be “displayed prominently at sites right across the university, reflecting the remarkable contributions made by so many individuals to modern Oxford’s culture of inclusion, equality and tolerance”.

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