Students at the Oxford Union voted on Tuesday night to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes with 245 ayes and 212 noes as part of a wider movement of “decolonisation” of the curriculum at the university.
The vote followed vibrant discussion between all of the speakers and between the audience. There were those that argue the statue of the Victorian imperialist is proof that Oxford is “institutionally racist” and therefore must be toppled and those who believe we can’t erase the past and think the statue should stay.
Those who are in favour of the toppling of the statue form part of the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement who got its namesake from the UCT Rhodes Must Fall movement which successfully campaigned to have the statue of Rhodes removed from the University property.
Stuart Webber, president of the Oxford Union says that the RMF movement is focusing on the removal of the statue in order to achieve wider change at the University of Oxford.
Students, whom are part of the movement, are said to have been campaigning for months for the removal of the statue because of Cecil Rhodes views on other races and his colonial past.
Thus, a panel discussion was hosted at the prestigious Oxford Union so that arguments for and against the removal of the statue could be brought forth.
“We had seven speakers all with seven different opinions and seven different reasons for either the statue remaining where it is or the statue coming down,” Webber explained.
“The outcome of the student vote was that the statue should be removed which comes into contrast of an independent university newspaper saying that 54% of students do not want the statue to be removed.”
Furthermore according to an article published by the BBC, the university’s chancellor, Lord Patten, has stated publicly that it should remain. Similar views were also expressed by Professor Louise Richardson when she became the university’s new vice chancellor this week.
“However, the main thing that came out of the debate is that this issue has divided oxford students right down the middle,” Webber added.
We will have to wait and see whether removing the statue at Oxford will be a realistic goal. Right now it will be up to students and academics alike to decide on whether Rhodes will fall. VOC (Umarah Hartley)