Cecil Rhodes Statue Will Stay at Oxford College for Now Despite Renewed Campaign

Cecil Rhodes Statue Will Stay at Oxford College for Now Despite Renewed Campaign

The governing body of an Oxford University college will not take down the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at this stage due to “regulatory and financial challenges” presented by its removal.

Oriel College’s decision comes after a long-running campaign demanding the removal of the British imperialist’s monument gained renewed attention amid the Black Lives Matter movement.

An independent inquiry to examine Rhodes’ legacy was set up in June last year after the governing body of Oriel College “expressed their wish” to remove the statue from outside the college.

A majority of members on the Commission supported the college’s original wish to remove the Rhodes statue.

Protesters in Oxford city centre during a protest calling for the removal of the statue of 19th-century imperialist, politician Cecil Rhodes from the Oriel college, Oxford, UK. Photo issued on May 20, 2021. (Joe Giddens/PA)

But a statement by Oriel College on Thursday said: “In light of the considerable obstacles to removal, Oriel’s governing body has decided not to begin the legal process for relocation of the memorials.”

It added: “The Commission backed the College’s original wish (made in June 2020 and reaffirmed again by the College yesterday), to remove the statue, whilst acknowledging the complex challenges and costs presented by its removal in terms of heritage and planning consent.

“The governing body has carefully considered the regulatory and financial challenges, including the expected time frame for removal, which could run into years with no certainty of outcome, together with the total cost of removal.”

The College said it will instead focus its time and resources on “improving educational equality, diversity, and inclusion amongst its student cohort and academic community.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson welcomed the College’s “sensible” decision not to remove the statue as he warned against “censoring history”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Sensible & balanced decision not to remove the Rhodes statue from Oriel College, Oxford—because we should learn from our past, rather than censoring history, and continue focussing on reducing inequality.”

Lord Mendoza, provost of Oriel College, said: “It has been a careful, finely balanced debate and we are fully aware of the impact our decision is likely to have in the UK and further afield.

“We understand this nuanced conclusion will be disappointing to some, but we are now focused on the delivery of practical actions aimed at improving outreach and the day-to-day experience of BME students.

“We are looking forward to working with Oxford City Council on a range of options for contextualisation.”

By Eleanor Busby

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