Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Cecil Stays Put

I heard on the Radio 4 Midnight News, where it was about fourth in rank as a story, and on the later BBC World Service, where it was equally prominent as a report, that the statue of Cecil Rhodes is staying put on the facade of Oriel  - and quite right too.

I am tempted to opine on the Andy Warhol principle that it is, for fifteen minutes, the most famous statue in the world for the moment.

The BBC News website quotes The Daily Telegraph report as follows:

Still on the subject of educational institutions, the Telegraph reports that a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University will not be removed.

Campaigners wanted the statue taken down because they said it represented racism.

A report prepared for governors of Oriel College warned that £1.5m in donations had already been cancelled - and they risked losing a £100m gift by considering the campaign.

Oriel confirmed in a statement to the Telegraph: "Following careful consideration, the college's governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place."

The Telegraph states: "Oriel's agreement to enter into discussion about the future of the statue triggered a wider row about free speech in universities and whether students need to be protected from offence.

"The college has now been panicked into cancelling the proposed consultation. The plaque on the building where Rhodes lived while a student at Oriel will also stay, but it and the statue will have an accompanying sign providing historical 'context'."

The Telegraph believes Rhodes' opinions reflected the prejudices of his time but intelligent minds are capable of interpreting the past in context.

It comments: "Rhodes will not fall. Oriel College has decided that the controversial statue will stay. It is a pity that it took so long to reach that conclusion and a pity that it required the financial pressure of benefactors.

"But the donors, or potential donors, were overwhelmingly of one entirely rational point of view: the past cannot be rewritten. And it is not the responsibility of Oxford students to try."

Floreat Oriel

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