Colonial Era Statue of Cecil Rhodes to Stay Up at Oxford College

A statue of Cecil Rhodes, an ardent imperialist who greatly expanded the footprint of British rule in southern Africa, will remain in place at Oxford University’s Oriel College.

The memorial, which overlooks Oxford’s High Street, has been an object of ire for students and the wider public for years. Thousands took to the streets to protest its continuing presence during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020.

Yet when it came to tearing it down, the college equivocated and then decided to keep it.

The “regulatory and financial challenges” and cost represent significant obstacles to removing the statue, according to a statement published by the governing body of the college on Thursday. It’s instead proposed to “contextualize” the Rhodes legacy and memorial using physical elements and virtual resources.

Colonial Era Statue of Cecil Rhodes to Stay Up at Oxford College

The college will focus on equality and diversity measures for its student cohort, including fund-raising for scholarships to support students from southern Africa, introducing a tutor for equality and providing additional staff training in race awareness.

Rhodes was a major benefactor of Oriel and the university established the Rhodes Scholarship in his name. He made a fortune after pushing the British empire to seize South Africa’s diamond mines in the 19th century and co-founded De Beers, which became the dominant producer of the gems. The former white-ruled nation of Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) was named in his honor.

U.K. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson called the decision “sensible & balanced,” according to a post on his Twitter account.

“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,” said Neil Mendoza, provost of the college.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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