Lecturers ‘boycott Oxford college over decision to keep Cecil Rhodes statue’

·2-min read
 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Lecturers are refusing to teach students at an Oxford University college over its decision not to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes it has been reported.

Last month, Oriel College was accused of “institutional racism” after its governing body said it would not seek to move the monument to the British imperialist from its position outside the building.

According to the Daily Telegraph, more than 150 lecturers have since refused to give tutorials to Oriel’s undergraduate students following the decision.

They also reportedly pledged to withdraw from all talks, seminars and conferences sponsored by Oriel and stop their involvement in interviewing students and recruiting fellows.

The lecturers have been criticised by Lord Wharton, chairman of the Office for Students, who told the paper it would be “utterly unacceptable” if students were left disadvantaged.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Tim Loughton, a former minister for children and families, added: “This is academic blackmail by a group of academics who think their own political views should trump everyone else’s, and if they don’t get their own way then any innocent students who happen to fall within their boycott will become the victims.”

An independent inquiry to examine Rhodes’ legacy was set up in June last year after the governing body of Oriel College “expressed their wish” to remove the statue.

Announcing its decision three weeks ago, the college decided against removal, arguing the time frame and cost were “considerable obstacles”.

A statement from the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in response described the decision as “an act of institutional racism”.

Oriel College has been approached for comment.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

It comes amid another dispute over a decision to remove the Queen’s portrait at Magdalen College due to concerns over its “colonial links”.

Members of the Magdalen College Middle Common Room (MCR), which is made up of graduate students, overwhelmingly voted to remove the picture from their common room.

Boris Johnson is said to back Gavin Williamson’s criticism of the students, according to Downing Street, after the Education Secretary branded the move “simply absurd”.

He has since faced criticism from the University and College Union (UCU), which said the comments were a “distraction from the disastrous, systemic failings this Government has presided over in higher education”.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Barrister Dinah Rose, president of the college, said staff had received “threatening messages” over the controversy, and she defended students’ right to “free speech and political debate”.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick called the row “student union politics”, but said he is “proud” to have a portrait of the Queen in his office.

Political website Guido Fawkes reported that the motion to remove the portrait was launched to make members “feel welcome”, with one student said to have commented “patriotism and colonialism are not really separable”.

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