Oxford lecturers boycott Oriel College over Cecil Rhodes statue decision

By Lily Martin• Last updated: Nov 8, 2023
Oxford lecturers boycott Oriel College over Cecil Rhodes statue decision
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Academics at Oxford University’s Oriel College are refusing to teach due to the decision last month to keep the statue of controversial figure Cecil Rhodes.

Last month, the college’s governing body said that it would not seek to move the statue due to the costs and “complex” planning process. This is in conflict with a commission set up to examine the statue’s future, which said that the “majority” of its members supported its removal.

Some academics are now boycotting Oriel College and have signed a petition saying the statue “glorifies colonialism”. The boycott includes delivering tutorials to undergraduates from the college, or delivering talks there, as first reported by The Daily Telegraph.

It also includes a refusal to help the college when it interviews admissions candidates and dons will not attend talks sponsored by it.

Cecil Rhodes is a highly controversial figure in the history of both Oriel College and the University of Oxford due to his role in colonialism during the 19th century. He considered the English as a master race, and his critics view him as the ultimate representation of colonialism. He is also considered by critics as one of the people who helped pave the way for apartheid in southern Africa.

As alumni of Oriel College, his statue is positioned above a doorway of a building that holds his name.

Oxford lecturers involved in the boycott say that the decision by the college to not remove the statue “undermines us all”.

“Faced with Oriel’s stubborn attachment to a statue that glorifies colonialism and the wealth it produced for the college, we feel we have no choice but to withdraw all discretionary work and goodwill collaborations,” a statement from the organisers of the boycott said.

They added that the boycott was done “with regret” but would continue “until Oriel makes a credible public commitment to remove the statue.”

The boycott excludes work which is not discretionary, such as exams, delivering lectures and supervision of postgraduate students.

Removal of the statue would require planning permission from Oxford City Council, Historic England, and the Secretary of State for Local Government.

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Lily is a Content Writer and Editor based in Manchester, UK. She is passionate about travel, literature and higher education.