The statue of Cecil Rhodes itself might not be falling immediately, but a plaque on Oriel College property commemorating his political actions is.
Today Oriel College released a statement outlining their reactions to the demands from the protest group Rhodes Must Fall. This is in response to the petition RMF recently presented at a protest in Oriel Square in November, which attracted over 150 students from the university. The protesters banged pots and pans in an effort to disrupt the activities of the college and were addressed by prominent representatives of the campaign, as well as former Rhodes Scholar Ntokozo Qwabe, who presented the petition to the college authorities.
The protest sought a response from the college regarding the statue of Cecil Rhodes on the side of Oriel facing the High Street. More generally, the campaign lobbies for improvements in the inclusion and representation of BME students in the university.
The governing body of the College have committed to increasing outreach activities in order to improve the inclusion of people of colour among both its staff and its students, while looking to fund scholarships which will specifically benefit those living in African countries. In addition to this, it will hold a series of lectures starting in 2016 to discuss the ongoing legacy of colonialism and the fight for race equality. They have also made the decision to remove a plaque celebrating the political achievements of Rhodes from their 6 King Edwards Street property.
Planning restrictions and the Grade II* listed status of the building mean that the college has stopped short of removing the statue itself. However, the college have committed to conducting a six month ‘structured listening exercise’ to collect views from BME students, staff, alumni, heritage preservation societies and Oxford City Council, as to what should be done with the statue. We’re not really sure what exactly a ‘structured listening exercise’ even is but okay Oriel…
In the meantime, a temporary sign will be put up in the window beneath the statue, stating: “This building, completed in 1911, was funded by a bequest from Cecil Rhodes. The statue of Rhodes was erected at the time of construction and is part of a Grade II* listed building. Many of Cecil Rhodes’s actions and public statements are incompatible with the values of the College and University today. In acknowledging the historical fact of Rhodes’s bequest, the College does not in any way condone or glorify his views or actions.” Jacob Williams is apparently distraught.
Rhodes Must Fall Oxford have been contacted for comment.