Oxford University administrators have defied a major protest wave and announced that they will be keeping a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes on campus.
For the past several months, Oxford has seen repeated protests and demands from the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, which wants the school to denounce Rhodes’ due to his imperialist legacy and remove any memorials to him that exist on campus. But the school announced Thursday Rhodes will stay.
“The overwhelming message we have received has been in support of the statue remaining in place, for a variety of reasons,” Oriel College said in a statement. “Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place and that the college will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there.”
Rhodes was a British mining magnate and proud imperialist who was one of the founding figures of modern South Africa and a major advocate for the British Empire. Today, his estate funds the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, which pays for students from around the world to attend Oxford and receive a graduate degree.
Activists wanted to force the removal of a Rhodes statue and commemorative plaque on the grounds of Oriel College, the college Rhodes himself attended at Oxford. The movement draws its inspiration and its name from a similar movement in South Africa, where students succeeded in getting the University of Cape Town to take down a Rhodes statue. It also bears a strong similarity to similar, often-successful efforts in the U.S. to tear down statutes honoring Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and other Confederate leaders. (RELATED: Oxford Students Want To Dump Rhodes But Not His Scholarship)
At first, it seemed the activists were poised to succeed. Oriel said it would seek the removal of the plaque honoring Rhodes, and the school began a “listening exercise” to collect people’s opinions on his statue, in a likely prelude to tearing the statue down.
But it may not have simply been public sentiment that caused Oriel College to decide to stick up for Rhodes. According to The Telegraph, leaked internal documents reveal that donations worth 1.5 million pounds have already been canceled by alumni fed up with Oriel College’s handling of the situation. Not only that, but the college apparently fears it is in imminent danger of losing a massive 100 million pound gift to be left in a donor’s will.
Rhodes Must Fall activists are outraged, and on the campaign’s Facebook page its leaders pledged to fight on. “This recent move is outrageous, dishonest, and cynical,” the group said. “This is not over. We will be redoubling our efforts and meeting over the weekend to discuss our next actions.” The group said that come Monday it will announce its next actions in its effort to undermine Rhodes.
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