Policies & Issues

Oxford Now Wants to Remove Statue of De Beers Founder

Policies & IssuesJun 19, 2020

Oxford Now Wants to Remove Statue of De Beers Founder

Oriel College, where the statue of Cecil Rhodes stands, will also launch an independent inquiry into the issues surrounding it.

Oxford, U.K.—The governors of Oriel College think the school’s statue of De Beers founder Cecil Rhodes should come down too.

Last week, protestors took to the streets of Oxford in the United Kingdom, demanding the statue of the British businessman be removed from its place of honor on the school’s façade.

Rhodes was a central figure in British imperialism at the end of the 1800s, encouraging the empire to take control of vast areas of southern Africa.

He attended Oriel College, part of the University of Oxford, in the 1870s. After his death in 1902, he left Oxford money and endowed the sought-after scholarships that still bear his name.

The protest movement around public likenesses of Rhodes, dubbed the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, started in 2015 at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and then moved north to England, adopted by those who say Rhodes represents white supremacy and his views don’t align with the university’s inclusive culture.

When students asked Oriel College to take down the statue the first time, in 2016, the school declined to do so.

Now, the global Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky have reignited calls to remove the statue of Rhodes in the U.K.

Last week, Oriel College said in a statement it supports Black Lives Matter and the right to protest but told the BBC it hadn’t changed its stance regarding the statue.

But in a second statement released Wednesday, the school said its governing body has expressed its wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and its corresponding King Edward Street plaque and voted to launch an independent inquiry into the key issues surrounding the statue.
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Oriel College said the governors came to the decision after a “thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.”

The inquiry commission will be tasked with dealing with the issue of Rhodes’ legacy, improving access and attendance of black, Asian and minority ethnic faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and reviewing how the school’s modern commitment to diversity can “sit more easily with its past.”

The college said there will have to be consultations over planning regulations before it can take down the statue. 

It remains to be seen if it will be removed in the end. 
Though some critics have noted the school’s most recent statement is not far off from the one released in 2016, the fact that the governing body voted for the statue’s removal represents a departure from the school’s position four years ago, one Rhodes Must Fall founder told The Guardian.

De Beers said last week it agreed with calls to take the statue down, stating: “Symbols matter, and we will not achieve equality, social justice and healing unless those bearing symbols of inequality, injustice and pain take them down.

“Cecil Rhodes was one of our founders in 1888. We reject what he stood for, and while we can’t rewrite that history, we can bear the responsibility of history to build a better legacy.”

Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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