Cecil Rhodes statue row: What's it all about?

The statue mounted on Oriel college building of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes.
The statue mounted on Oriel college building of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

An Oxford college has expressed “sadness” at the decision by some lecturers to stage an academic boycott amid a row over a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

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Downing Street has warned that Oxford University students whose teaching has been disrupted by protests over a statue of Cecil Rhodes may be liable for compensation.

Lecturers are refusing to teach students at an Oxford University college over its decision, it has been reported.

An independent inquiry to examine Rhodes’ legacy was set up in June last year 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”.

Protesters in Oxford, during a protest calling for the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statues from the Oriel college.
Protesters in Oxford, during a protest calling for the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statues from the Oriel college.

More than 150 lecturers are reported to be refusing to conduct tutorials in protest at Oriel College’s decision not to remove the controversial statute.

A No 10 spokesman said universities had a duty to provide good-quality teaching and that the Government would expect “appropriate action” to be taken if that was disrupted.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg described the academics concerned as a “useless bunch”, adding: “We must not allow this wokeness to happen.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords.
Jacob Rees-Mogg before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords.

Mr Rees-Mogg added: “As regards the academics refusing to teach, I’m half tempted to say you should be lucky not to be taught by such a useless bunch, but if they are that feeble, what are you missing and what are they doing there? Why don’t they have any pride in their country, our marvellous history and our success?

“Rhodes is not a black and white figure, perhaps they’re not learned enough to have bothered to look up the history of Rhodes in any detail, which has been written about quite extensively now and as I say, he is a figure of importance and of interest and of enormous generosity to Oxford. Do they want to give the money back to the descendants of Cecil Rhodes, or are they intending to keep it to themselves?

An Oxford college has expressed “sadness” at the decision by some lecturers to stage an academic boycott amid a row over a statue of Cecil Rhodes.

A statement from Oriel College said: “Oriel College undertook an extensive, academic and rigorous process advised by a ten-month long, independent commission of inquiry, established to consider the issues raised by the memorials and legacy of Cecil Rhodes.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes on the front of Oriel College in Oxford.
The statue of Cecil Rhodes on the front of Oriel College in Oxford.

“The commission did not make a recommendation on the removal of memorials.

“We note with sadness that some fellow academics from other colleges at Oxford University have chosen not to respect the decisions of our governing body, not least because of the commensurate impact on our students and the wider academic community at Oriel, to whom we all have a duty of care. “