Removal of Oxford's Cecil Rhodes statue on hold over costs - Yeet Agency
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Removal of Oxford’s Cecil Rhodes statue on hold over costs

Removal of Oxford’s Cecil Rhodes statue on hold over costs

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An Oxford University college will “not begin the legal process” to remove a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes from its building.

Calls to remove the memorial at Oriel College in Oxford were reignited after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol.

A commission set up to examine the figure’s future said the “majority” of members supported moving the figure.

But Oriel College said it would not seek to move it yet due to the costs.

Campaigners want the statue to be removed because they say Rhodes, a 19th Century businessman and politician in southern Africa, represented white supremacy and was steeped in colonialism and racism.

In a statement, the college said the independent commission had “backed the college’s original wish to remove the statue”.

However, it added after considering “regulatory and financial challenges” it had decided not to begin the “legal process” to move it.

Protesters outside Oriel College

The college said the “challenges and costs” of removing the stature “in terms of heritage and planning consent” could “run into years with no certainty of outcome”.

“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,” a statement added.

“Instead, it is determined to focus its time and resources on delivering the report’s recommendations around the contextualisation of the college’s relationship with Rhodes, as well as improving educational equality, diversity and inclusion amongst its student cohort and academic community.”

The college said it would accept a “number of the report’s recommendations immediately”.

These would include a new tutor for “equality, diversity and inclusion” and additional training “for academic and non-academic staff in race awareness”.

Lord Mendoza, provost of Oriel College, said the college was “fully aware of the impact our decision is likely to have in the UK and further afield”.

Rhodes statue at Oriel College, Oxford

image copyrightJonathan Hutchinson/Flickr

“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,” he added.

The college said the majority of the submissions to the commission “backed the retention of the statue”.

The governing body said it agreed to a virtual exhibition to “provide an arena for contextualisation and explanation of the Rhodes legacy”.

The statue sits above a doorway on the front of the college’s Rhodes Building, which faces Oxford’s High Street.

The commission was set up after thousands of people protested to demand the statue’s removal in June last year.

Cecil Rhodes

image copyrightGetty Images

It led to the governors of Oriel College voting to take the Grade II-listed figure down and the King Edward Street plaque to Rhodes, reversing the decision they made in 2016.

A report had been due to be published in January but the commission delayed it until early spring due to a “considerable volume of submissions”, but was then delayed further.

Any decision to move the statue would require planning permission from Oxford City Council and further permission from Historic England.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign began in South Africa, where a Rhodes statue was removed, and was adopted in Oxford by campaigners who argued his views were incompatible with an “inclusive culture” at the university.

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By Michael Race
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