Monday, February 01, 2016

Why Oriel College Oxford Backed Down from Taking Down Rhodes

Many of you by now are already aware that the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College Oxford will stay.  But you may not be aware that moneyed alumni putting their foot down is a big reason why.  Many were furious that Oriel was considering taking down the statue in the face of pressure from Social Justice Warrior students (I use that last word loosely, by the way.) and were putting their money where their fury was.

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”.

One of those who has already cancelled their legacy was going to leave a “seven figure sum” and the college is aware that “another major donor is furious with the College… whose legacy could be in excess of £100m”.

The report warns that there will now "almost certainly" be "one or two redundancies" in its Development Office team because of the collapse in donations. And it has cancelled an annual fundraising drive that should have taken place in April. The report also warns that Oriel's development office could now make an operating loss of around £200,000 this year.

Now some sensitive souls may be appalled that alumni were so throwing the weight of their money around.  But what is appalling is that said pressure was needful in assisting Oriel College to see the light.

Moreover, this is a textbook case of how the students of times past can assist their alma maters from becoming too married to the madnesses of times present.   And alumni usually have a little more perspective than callow students and those ensconced in the ivory towers of academia and can and should on occasion put that perspective to good effect, backed with the hard reality of filthy lucre if need be.

So good on those Oriel alumni – or old members, as they say in England – who assisted their beloved college from turning away from what would have been an odious decision.

If only more American alumni had that much backbone.

For those who think Cecil Rhodes was an awful racist – or that I am for defending his statue, a little history is in order.

The Cape Colony under Rhodes was liberal for its day. Africans could vote if they met the same property-holding or income requirements as whites. Rhodes might have bent too far to placate the Boers, the Dutch settlers whose support he needed to rule the colony. But at the end of his political career, Rhodes opposed a Boer plan to submit Africans to a literacy test before they could vote. Only after Rhodes left office did the Boers establish apartheid as official policy.

When Rhodes created his scholarship in 1902, he included a clause far ahead of its time. His will specifies that no student will be “qualified or disqualified on account of his race or religious opinions.”

The above is not well known, and I did not know it until very recently.  So trust me that I understand if one is not well disposed towards Rhodes.  But really, Cecil Rhodes was more enlightened on race than many 20th Century heroes of the Left.

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