The governing body of an Oxford University college will not tear down a statue of Cecil Rhodes 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.
An independent inquiry to examine Rhodes’ legacy was set up in June after the governing body ‘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.
But Oriel College said today: ‘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.’
The monument, which was the target of BLM protests last year, needs to be taken down along with a plaque to the colonialist in the city, the commission claimed
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’.
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.
The inquiry said Oriel College could fund two fellowships in subjects related to Rhodes’ legacy, create scholarships for students from Africa and hold an annual lecture on him
‘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.’
The inquiry was launched by Oriel last June as the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam.
Its findings were expected in January but have faced delays due to the Covid pandemic and the huge number of submissions to the commission.
The Guardian reported earlier the inquiry has said the statue should be ripped from the wall and a King Edward Street plaque should be taken away.
It wanted Oriel’s governing body to issue a statement sharing the college’s view on its relationship with Rhodes.
The newspaper reported college material should be rewritten to match its thoughts towards the mining magnate.
Robert Poll from Save Our Statues said: ‘I am saddened but not surprised to hear the verdict of the Commission, which was a foregone conclusion from the start,’ Pictured: A protest in Oxford last June
Rhodes Must Fall: A timeline of events
March 2015: Students at University of Cape Town begin protest to remove statue.
April 2015: After a vote by the university’s council, the statue is removed
May 2015: A vote is held at Rhodes University, South Africa, to change the name of the university. The vote is defeated.
January 2016: Vote held by Oxford students in Oxford Union, not affiliate to Oxford University, vote to remove the statue.
January 2016: Leaked report reveals the university faces huge funding loss if it removes the statue.
June 2020: The Rhodes Must Fall campaign is thrown into the spotlight among growing anti-racism protests by the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of American George Floyd. It gains particular attention following the toppling of a statue to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.
A further recommendation by the commission was for Oriel to fund two fellowships in courses on Rhodes’ legacy.
And it wanted the college to open scholarships for people from southern Africa and bring in an annual warts and all lecture on Rhodes.
Robert Poll from Save Our Statues told MailOnline: ‘I welcome the decision by Oriel College not to remove the statue of Rhodes.
‘It recognises two important facts: that our heritage is protected by planning law, and that the people do not want to see it destroyed.
‘Over a thousand people wrote to the commission and the majority were in favour of keeping the statue.
‘We must stop sitting in judgement of history and trying to assert moral authority over the past.
‘Calls to remove statues only inflame tensions and sow division. Let this be the last call for a statue to fall.’
General Secretary of the Free Speech Union Toby Young added: ‘This is a victory for common sense over the woke Taliban.
‘We cannot cleanse our past of historical figures whose views we now find distasteful and the attempt to do so, by pulling down statues and renaming buildings, is a hallmark of a totalitarian society.
‘The Rhodes Must Fall movement has caricatured Rhodes as an evil racist, determined to oppress black and brown people, but that is over simplistic.
‘He was a member of the Liberal Party, he funded the newspaper in South Africa that became the mouthpiece of Nelson Mandela’s ANC and he created a scholarship programme that was open to all, regardless of ethnicity, saying ‘no student shall be qualified or disqualified for election to a Scholarship on grounds of his race’. By the standards of his time, he was actually pretty woke.
‘I hope this sensible decision encourages other institutions to stop self-flagellating themselves about their own links with ‘problematic’ historical figure and instead treat their statues and busts as an opportunity to learn more about the past.
‘Cancelling the dead in a frenzy of moral indignation is not the best way to understand our rich and complex history.’
Who was Cecil Rhodes and why is he so controversial?
Cecil Rhodes, pictured, who died in 1902, was the founder of the De Beers diamond company who was accused of exploiting his black miners. He was also a proponent of racial segregation which led to the Apartheid strategy in South Africa
Cecil Rhodes was born in Bishop Stortford, Hertfordshire in 1853. He was the son of a vicar.
Rhodes left England in 1870 for South Africa to work on his brother’s cotton farm. Though he later moved into the diamond business – co-founding De Beers – which at one stage controlled more than 90 per cent of the world’s supply.
The tycoon had wanted to build a railway from Cairo to Cape Town in order to colonise much of the continent of Africa.
He had even plans to bring the United States back under Crown control.
It wasn’t until the 1880s that he attended Oriel College, Oxford, which he left a substantial fund upon his death in 1902.
He was supported by Queen Victoria in expanding British territory in southern Africa, colonising Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia – now Zambia and Zimbabwe.
He once claimed: ‘Why should we not form a secret society with but one object, the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, for making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire?’
He was the Prime Minister of Cape Colony – now South Africa – between 1890 and 1896 and is credited with creating the conditions for the second Boer War.
In 1895, Rhodes sent British troops into Transvaal, which was an independent Republic, in order to overthrow it’s prime minister Paul Kruger and seize the area’s gold mines.
The Jameson Raid failed miserably.
Though, the battle over gold rights in the region led to war in 1899, which lasted for more than three years.
British troops operated a scorched earth policy, burning farms and placing women and children into concentration camps where thousands died.
Some 500,000 troops – including soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada were involved in the conflict.
The conflict claimed the lives of 25,000 Afrikaners – many of them in concentration camps.
Some 22,000 British troops as well as a further 12,000 Africans died in the conflict.