Oriel College Cecil Rhodes statue
Image: Geograph / Len Williams

Renewed calls to remove Oxford University’s statue of Cecil Rhodes

There have been renewed calls for the removal of the statue of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University.

Campaigners say that the institution has “failed to address its institutional racism”.

These calls come after the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, was toppled by anti-racism protestors in Bristol on Sunday.

In an open letter to vice-chancellor Louise Richardson, campaigners said that “none of the demands of the movement have been met… and concerns continue to be dismissed by senior members of the university”.

“Many colleges and university institutions who have benefitted from slavery and imperialism have made no attempts at reparation.”

Rhodes was a student at Oxford and a member of Oriel College in the 1870s, and left a bequest to the college on his death in 1902. A scholarship in his name has been awarded to more than 8,000 overseas students.

He is also considered one of the founders of South African racial segregation and his statue is seen as constant reminder of white supremacy, colonialism and racism.

The Rhodes Must Fall movement began in 2015 at Cape Town University, South Africa, where a Rhodes statue was removed.

It was adopted by campaigners in Oxford in 2016, who argued that his views were incompatible with the university’s “inclusive culture”.

Many colleges and university institutions who have benefitted from slavery and imperialism have made no attempts at reparation

– Rhodes Must Fall campaigners

At the time, Oriel College decided not to remove the statue, saying that it “was a reminder of the complexity of history and of legacies of colonialism”.

However, the campaign group argues that despite promises at the time, Oxford has only made “inconsequential inroads” into tackling the material legacy of imperialism, adding that it “is not enough”.

Femi Nylander, one of the Rhodes Must Fall campaigners, said promises made to black students “around the curriculum, access and representation have never materialised”.

The open letter contains five steps that the campaigners “hope the university will agree to, in order to make upholding anti-racist values a reality”.

The campaign has been backed by a group of 26 Oxford councillors, who signed a letter saying the figure was “incompatible” with the city’s “commitment to anti-racism”.

They have asked the institution to “make Oxford a truly anti-racist” city by immediately removing the statue and the associated plaque.

One of the city’s two MPs, Layla Moran, said that the statue “must come down”, although she added that she did not endorse “vigilante action”.

Oxford has previously come under fire over the lack of diversity among its student body, and recently delayed publishing its admissions data on diversity in light of “world events”.

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