Student Petition Takes Cecil Rhodes Plaque Down at Oriel College, Oxford


More than 2,300 students and staff have signed a petition asking the Oriel College to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from the Oxford University College campus in the United Kingdom. The college is considering the Rhodes’ statue removal because the students say it comes in contrast with the inclusive culture of the university because Rhodes is regarded as the founding father of apartheid.

Oriel College has already removed a plaque that had been on the campus for the last 109 years. In its place, a sign will be hung offering an explanation of Rhodes’ history and his association with the college. The removal accompanied a college statement saying that the colonialist’s views are not compatible with the ethos of the modern-day Rhodes scholarship and the college as a whole. The college emphasized that the fact that Rhodes was the college’s beneficiary doesn’t imply that the institution actually celebrated or endorsed his philosophy and actions.

Now the institution is considering the removal of his statue because Oriel doesn’t want anyone associating Rhodes’ colonial beliefs with those held by the Oxford University college. Oxford said in a written statement that:

“[Oriel] does not share Cecil Rhodes’ values or condone his racist views or actions.”

Oxford University needs to accept Oriel’s request for the removal of the statue through a college consultation. Expressing the contrast in outlook, Oriel said about the statue’s plaque:

“Its wording is a political tribute, and the college believes its continuing display on Oriel property is inconsistent with our principles.”

Cecil Rhodes studied at Oriel in 1873 and left 2 percent of his income to the College when he passed away. Through the Rhodes Scholarship, almost 8,000 international students were able to study at Oriel, The Huffington Post says.

The college will have a consultation regarding the statue’s future, and the six-month consultation will start in February 2016. Unlike the plaque’s removal, given the historic and artistic value of the statue, the removal of the statue is significantly more complex, Jessica Elgot writes in The Guardian.

A Cape Town University campaign that resulted in the removal of another statue of Rhodes in the city sparked the Oriel college student petition in the UK, Sean Coughlan of the BBC reports. In 1900, Rhodes was a vocal advocate of colonialism, and he is considered the founding father of apartheid in the region of South Africa.

Professor Frank Furedi and Spiked Education Editor Joanna Williams told The Telegraph that the removed Rhodes plaque is just one issue among a ‘long and growing’ list of things and individuals being banned from campuses for the sake of political correctness.

Student censorship on campus is a ‘worrying development’, the sociology professor said, which suffocates freedom of speech in public spaces where it should be promoted. They said according to the Telegraph:

“[A] culture that restricts the free exchange of ideas encourages self-censorship and leaves people afraid to express their views in case they may be misinterpreted. This risks destroying the very fabric of democracy.”

The duo said that universities must strongly oppose censorship on campus and suggested that perhaps students feeling offended by contrasting views might not be college-ready.