Sunday, June 13, 2021

Downing Street warns Oxford University after academic boycott college over Cecil Rhodes statue

Downing Street has warned Oxford University to take action if students are seriously affected by a boycott of Oriel College by academics over a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

According to The Telegraph, the group of more than 150 academics said they would refuse to teach undergraduate students, do outreach work or attend college-sponsored talks, seminars and conferences.

The boycott came after the college’s governing body decided last month not to remove the statue of Rhodes, who was prime minister of Cape Colony during colonial times, and the creator of the Rhodes Scholarship, the world’s first graduate scholarship.

The Telegraph quoted the academics as saying that they ‘have no choice but to withdraw all discretionary work and cooperation with benevolence’ after being ‘confronted with Oriel’s stubborn attachment to a statue representing colonialism and the glorify the wealth it has produced for the college. ‘

Robert Gildea, professor emeritus in modern history at Oxford and one of the signatories of the petition, told BBC Radio 4’s program “Today” on Thursday: “One of the options the commission offers was to retain and contextualize, so if the college put it a notice explaining who Cecil Rhodes was would be fine. If the college puts a poster around his neck during lunch today and says ‘sorry’, that would be fine too. “

He added that sculptor Antony Gormley’s proposal that the statue be turned over to the wall was also a ‘very interesting idea’.

The boycott has drawn criticism from fellow contestants and a number of MPs, with the worst of all coming from Oxford alumni and Volksraad leader Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“What academics refuse to teach, I am half inclined to say that you should be happy not to be taught by such a useless bunch, but if they are so weak, what do you miss and what do they do there?” Rees-Mogg said in parliament.

He added: “We must not allow this awakening to happen.”

The office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that students should be compensated if they are affected by the boycott.

“Students rightly expect to receive a good amount for their investment in higher education, and we would expect universities to take the necessary steps if any student is seriously affected by these actions, which may include compensation,” a spokesman said. van Downingstraat No. statement.

“We fully believe in protecting academic freedom, but universities have a duty to maintain access to good quality education as a priority, especially given the disruption the pandemic has already caused to students.”

The governing body of Oriel College voted in June 2020 to remove the statue after protests by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which started in 2015 from the University of Cape Town and was again enchanted by Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. worldwide after the death of George Floyd.

It was then decided not to remove the statue in May, citing ‘regulatory and financial challenges’.

In 2020, a statue of 17th-century English slave trader and Bristol benefactor Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into port by BLM protesters on 7 June. , before it was violated again in September during a landslide protest.

The British government then introduced a series of measures to protect the statues, including new bills with imprisonment for damaging memorials, planning permission for the demolition of monuments and threatening institutions with funding rebates if they remove historic objects due to protest actions.

PA contributed to this report.

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