Cecil Rhodes statue to be kept by Oxford University college

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Oriel College said the "overwhelming message" it had received was for the statue to stay

A college at Oxford University says it has decided not to remove a statue of the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

Campaigners want the statue torn down, arguing that Rhodes, a 19th Century businessman and politician in southern Africa, represented white supremacy.

They have described Oriel College's decision as "outrageous, dishonest and cynical" and have vowed to fight it.

The college began a consultation last month and said the "overwhelming" response was that Rhodes should stay.

It said the statue was a reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism.

In a statement, campaign group Rhodes Must Fall said: "This recent move is outrageous, dishonest, and cynical.

"This is not over. We will be redoubling our efforts and meeting over the weekend to discuss our next actions."

The decision by the college comes after the Oxford Union debating society voted by 245 to 212 earlier this month for the statue to be removed.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign began in South Africa, where a Rhodes statue was removed, and was adopted in Oxford by campaigners who argued his views were incompatible with an "inclusive culture" at the university.

'Shame and embarrassment'

In a statement, Oriel College said it had received an "enormous amount of input" from students, academics and other individuals and groups during its consultation.

The college said after "careful consideration" it had decided the statue should remain but it would add "a clear historical context to explain why it is there".

The statement continued: "The college believes the recent debate has underlined that the continuing presence of these historical artefacts is an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism still felt today.

"By adding context, we can help draw attention to this history, do justice to the complexity of the debate, and be true to our educational mission."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Rhodes Must Fall campaign saw the removal of a statue in Cape Town

The Daily Telegraph reported the decision to keep the statue had been made after donors threatened to withdraw gifts and bequests worth more than £100m if it was taken down.

The paper said it had seen a leaked copy of a report that disclosed that wealthy alumni angered by the "shame and embarrassment" brought on the 690-year-old college by its own actions had written it out of their wills.

In its statement, which did not directly address these claims, Oriel College added that the campaign to remove the statue "highlighted other challenges in relation to the experience and representation of black and minority ethnic students and staff at Oxford".

The college said it would be taking "substantive steps" to address these challenges.

Rhodes was a student at Oxford and a member of Oriel College in the 1870s. He left money to the college on his death in 1902.

A scholarship programme in his name has so far been awarded to more than 8,000 overseas students.

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