Oxford University should ignore fashionable “moral vanity” and retain the statue of Cecil Rhodes that graces Oriel College according to Australia’s former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott.
Mr. Abbott, a Rhodes scholar in the 1980s, has claimed that the university would damage its reputation if it bowed to international pressure to take down the statue. Some students argue the 19th Century colonialist’s views are against the “inclusive culture” at the university.
“The university and its students should prefer improving today’s orthodoxies to imposing them on our forebears,” Mr. Abbott told the Independent newspaper.
“The university should remember that its mission is not to reflect fashion but to seek truth and that means striving to understand before rushing to judge.”
The former prime minister said that while Rhodes himself had not campaigned against racism, many of the scholars who benefited from his legacy had done so.
“We can lament that he failed to oppose unjust features of his society while still celebrating the genius that led to the creation of the Rhodes Scholarships.”
Mr. Abbott added: “Oxford would damage its standing as a great university if it were to substitute moral vanity for fair-minded enquiry.”
Mr. Abbott’s successor as Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is also a Rhodes Scholar but he has not as yet addressed the matter of the controversial statue.
As Breitbart London has reported, students involved in the movement argue that Rhodes’ involvement in apartheid and land seizures in 19th Century Africa make him unworthy of commemoration. More than 2,300 people signed a petition calling for the removal of the statue from Oriel College.
The college responded by saying it would ask for permission to remove a plaque celebrating Rhodes and begin a consultation process about the future of the statue.
“Rhodes was… a 19th Century colonialist whose values and world view stand in absolute contrast to the ethos of the scholarship programme today, and to the values of a modern university,” it said in a statement.
Former New Zealand rugby scrum half Chris Laidlaw told the Times he thought Rhodes’ views were typical of his generations and that to expunge his memory would be unfair.
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