Oriel College faces teaching boycott over refusal to remove Rhodes statue

Di 150 Oxford lecturers have announced they will refuse to teach students at Oriel College over its contentious decision not to remove a statue of the imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

The college was accused of “institutional racism” last month after its governing body said it would not seek to move the monument from its position outside the building.

The academics have now announced a boycott of tutorials to Oriel’s undergraduate students and will refuse to take part in any outreach and access work including undergraduate admissions interviewing.

They have also pledged to not participate in recruitment and assessment processes for fellowships at Oriel and other Oriel College appointments, along with boycotting talks, seminars and conferences.

One of the signatories to the petition said that the boycott was of “discretionary” activities rather than any formal organised teaching or lecturing.

In una dichiarazione, the academics said: “The collegiate university can only effectively and credibly work to eradicate racism and address the ongoing effects of colonialism today if all the colleges do so.

“Oriel College’s decision not to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes undermines us all.

“Despite votes in favour from its student common rooms and despite an earlier vote of the governing body expressing their wish to remove it, Oriel has now decided not to.

“Faced with Oriel’s stubborn attachment to a statue that glorifies colonialism and the wealth it produced for the college, we feel we have no choice but to withdraw all discretionary work and goodwill collaborations.”

The statement adds that their decision does not extend to graduate supervision of Oriel students at master’s or DPhil level, delivering lectures at which Oriel students may be present, nor “examination of candidates who are Oriel students for university degrees” and “any duties specified in your contract with your employer”.

In June last year, an independent inquiry to examine Rhodes’ legacy was initiated after the governing body of Oriel College “expressed their wish” to remove the statue.

Announcing its decision three weeks ago, the college decided against removal, arguing the time frame and cost were “considerable obstacles”.

A statement from the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in response described the decision as “an act of institutional racism”.

It comes amid a dispute which emerged on Tuesday over a decision to remove the Queen’s portrait at Magdalen College due to concerns over its “colonial links”.

Members of the Magdalen College Middle Common Room (MCR), which is made up of graduate students, overwhelmingly voted to remove the picture from their common room.

Barrister Dinah Rose, president of the college, said staff had received “threatening messages” over the controversy and she defended students’ right to “free speech and political debate”.

Boris Johnson is said to back Gavin Williamson’s criticism of the students, according to Downing Street, after the education secretary said the was decision “simply absurd”.

He has since faced criticism from the University and College Union which said the comments were a “distraction from the disastrous, systemic failings this government has presided over in higher education”.

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