Oxford’s Alumni Show the Way

We wrote here that the sickness afflicting American universities apparently had spread to England, citing among other incidents a group of students at Oxford who, chanting the mantra “Rhodes must fall,” have demanded that the university erase all traces of Cecil Rhodes, one of Oxford’s most generous benefactors. This story has a happy ending, for now, at least, due to a rebellion on behalf of common sense by Oxford’s alumni.

The Telegraph reports:

Oxford University’s statue of Cecil Rhodes is to stay in place after furious donors threatened to withdraw gifts and bequests worth more than £100 million if it was taken down….

The governing body of Oriel College, which owns the statue, has ruled out its removal after being warned that £1.5m worth of donations have already been cancelled, and that it faces dire financial consequences if it bows to the Rhodes Must Fall student campaign.

A leaked copy of a report prepared for the governors and seen by this newspaper discloses that wealthy alumni angered by the “shame and embarrassment” brought on the 690-year-old college by its own actions have now written it out of their wills.

So for the foreseeable future, the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College will remain in place.

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More from the Telegraph:

The donors were astonished by a proposal to remove a plaque marking where Rhodes lived, and to launch a six-month consultation over whether the statue of the college’s biggest benefactor should be taken down.

But Oriel College confirmed in a statement to the Telegraph: “Following careful consideration, the College’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place.” …

At a meeting on Wednesday the governing body was told that because of its ambiguous position on the removal of the statue, “at least one major donation of £500,000” that was expected this year has been cancelled.
In addition, a “potential £750,000 donor” has stopped responding to messages from the college, and several alumni have written to Oriel to say “they are disinheriting the college from their wills”. …

Sean Power, Oriel’s development director and the man in charge of fundraising, told the governors in a report that the college was unprepared for the national and international condemnation of the suggestion that the statue might be removed, described by the classicist Professor Mary Beard as a “completely barking” plan to “erase” history.

Mr Power wrote that: “The overall reaction has been significant, much more than any in the College predicted. It has also been overwhelmingly negative of the College’s position and its actions.

“The likely long-term impact on development and fundraising, assuming our current course of action regarding the statue, is potentially extremely damaging…our alumni do not need many excuses not to give, and for many this will be such an excuse for years to come. The current situation is generating a media storm that is right at the limits of what the University can deal with, and support us in.”

Heartwarming, isn’t it? For some reason, American alumni have generally not entered the fray on behalf of common sense and history. Maybe Oxford’s example will inspire them.

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