Scholars at Oxford University Refuse to Teach Under Statue of Colonialist

A statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University has been criticized for decades. Now some academicians said that they would refuse to teach in the college where Murthy sits.

A long-running dispute at Oxford University over a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, seen by many as the architect of apartheid in South Africa, gained new momentum this week, when more than 150 academics said they would attend college. refuse to teach students. where the monument sits.

The scholars sent a letter to the college stating that they would decline requests from Oriole College, one of the 39 self-governing bodies that make up the university, To give tutorials to its graduate students and, among other measures, to attend or speak at programs sponsored by the College.

In the letter seen by, he wrote, “Faced with Oriel’s stubborn attachment to a statue glorifying colonialism and the wealth he had borne for the college, we feel we have no choice.”

The boycott is the latest high-profile protests in Britain and several other European countries in a complex calculation over their colonial and slave-trading past. In museums, public spaces and schools, a long-running discourse argues that colonialist forces have brought “civilization” to African countries, with many critics arguing that little is being done to confront the past.

On Wednesday, some students of Magdalen College, Oxford University A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II removed, the ruling monarch, arguing that the British monarchy represented colonial history.

The British government has mostly resisted such calls, and a cabinet minister earlier this year vowed to “protect Britain’s statues from awakened extremists”.

Minister Robert Jenrick said, “What has been going on for generations should be considered carefully, not removed suddenly or at the behest of the crowd.” said in the telegraph.

In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, thousands of protesters gathered in Oxford last June to demand the removal of the Rhodes statue. Protesters across Britain also targeted monuments dedicated to Winston Churchill, and in Bristol, demonstrators toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colson, whose profits played a large part in building the city. The statue, which was dumped in the city harbour, is now on display in a museum.

Cities such as Bristol in England or Bordeaux and Nantes on the Atlantic coast of France have been forced to acknowledge that they developed through the enslavement and forced labor of many peoples. Belgium has sent its “deepest regret” to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the millions of deaths and catastrophic damage suffered during decades of colonization, and local authorities in the city of Antwerp removed a statue of King Leopold II, which was behind the colonization. .

In Oxford, Oriole College has over the years looked into the fate of the Rhodes statue, a prominent feature of its main building on one of Oxford’s largest streets. While the governing body of Oriole College has said it supported its removal, the college announced last month that it won’t remove Pratima, citing financial concerns and arguing that the operation “could go on for years without certainty of outcome.”

Instead, it pledged to raise funds for scholarships aimed at South African students and to set up an annual lecture on the legacy of Rhodes, among other initiatives.

“We understand that this nuanced conclusion will be disappointing to some, but we now focus on the outreach of black and minority ethnic students, the college’s provost, Neil Mendoza, and the delivery of practical actions aimed at improving the day-to-day experience.” are doing.” Told Wire.

(In addition to serving as college provost, Mr Mendoza sits in the House of Lords, the upper house of Britain’s parliament, as a Conservative MP.)

Simukai Chigudu, an associate professor of African studies at the University of Oxford and one of the academics who initiated the boycott, said Oriel College’s counteroffers were inadequate.

“Over the years, Oriol has been adamant about the statue,” said Dr. Chigudu. “They are not acting in good faith, so we will not participate in goodwill activities with them.”

Under Oxford University’s system of colleges, undergraduates participate in lectures, seminars and small group sessions known as tutorials, all set up by the college to which they are affiliated. While professors are also affiliated with colleges, they can teach students from different colleges when needed.

The boycott means that the 150 participating professors, who are from other colleges in the university, will not teach any of Oriole’s 300 undergraduate students. They will also not participate in any conference or other events organized by the college.

(The boycott will not affect Oriel’s graduate students as graduate students enroll in classes through their department of study – law, or philosophy.)

A student representative for Oriole College did not respond to a request for comment.

Oriel College said in a statement: on Thursday that academics’ decision not to engage in teaching activities with college students “will have a similar impact on our students and the wider academic community at Oriole, to whom we all have a duty of care.”

Rhodes’ legacy was disputed at the University of Oxford even before his death: in 1899, 90 academics signed a petition against Rhodes’ visit to Oriole College to receive honorary degrees.

“I grew up in Oxford as a kid, and I remember there were already some issues around the statue in the 1980s,” said Danny Dorling, a professor of geography at the university and a signer of the letter, who Said that the presence of the statue is a blot on the reputation of the university.

In 2015, students signed a petition and protested against the monument after students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa led students who successfully demanded the removal of a similar statue of Rhodes.

The “Roads Must Fall” movement at the University of Oxford has since sparked several protests against the statue, with renewed vigor in the past year.

Born in Britain, Rhodes studied at Oriel College in the late 19th century before becoming Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in South Africa in 1890. Through his diamond company, De Beers, Rhodes captured large tracts of land, and the settlers and the soldiers they led killed thousands of civilians. Rhodes’s biographers and critics have highlighted his racist views, saying that his discriminatory policies against natives drove apartheid.

Rhodes died in 1902, and donated the equivalent of £12 million today—about $17 million—to Oriel College in his will.

Dozens of foreign students also study at Oxford University every year through Rhodes Scholarship, which was established through the will of Mr. Rhodes. Past recipients have included Bill Clinton and a former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott.

Following protests in Oxford last year, Oriel College’s governing body tasked an independent commission to study alternatives to the statue. It supported the removal of the statue, as well as a plaque in memory of Rhodes on another street in Oxford.

In 144 page report, the commission reminded the College of Rhodes’ past: their policies in the Cape “intensified racial segregation,” and their actions were “responsible for the extreme violence against African people”, cited a professor.

“Does the College want to maintain a symbol of racial segregation at a time when society and institutions like the University of Oxford are working hard to decisively tackle this legacy?” William Beinert, an emeritus professor of African studies at the University of Oxford, wrote in the report.

Signing this week’s letter, Prof. Dorling said the boycott was intended to demonstrate Disappointment at Oriel College’s inaction

Pro. “You can’t put a racist statue on the top of a college building,” Dorling said.

“The question is how much – month, year, decade.”

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