The speakers signed an “Oriel College Boycott Declaration” on the decision to retain a statue of Cecil Rhodes, who drove colonial expansion in southern Africa in the 1800s, and for whom the Rhodes Scholarship from the school is named, according to The Telegraph.
“In the face of Oriel’s stubborn attachment to a statue that glorifies colonialism and the wealth it has produced for the college, we believe we have no choice but to withdraw all discretionary work and collaboration from good will ”, indicates the press release of the speakers.
The reaction to the boycott threat has come from as high as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose office has said it expects “appropriate steps” to be taken to ensure students are compensated for any canceled course.
“Students rightly expect to get a good deal for their investment in higher education,” his spokesperson told The Telegraph. “We strongly believe in protecting academic freedom, but universities have a duty to keep access to quality courses a priority. “
Speakers say they plan to refuse to teach Oriel undergraduates, help with outreach work, or give lectures or seminars “until Oriel publicly commits and credible way to remove the statue, ”according to The Telegraph.
The boycott came as Oxford was already under fire from criticism after students at neighboring Magdalen College voted to remove a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II because it “represents recent colonial history.”
House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg called Magdalen’s students “a few pimply teenagers getting excited.”
As for the rebel lecturers, he told parliament: “I am half-tempted to say that you should be lucky not to be educated by such a useless group.
“We must not allow this awakening to happen,” he said, asking, “Why do they have no pride in their country, our wonderful history and our success?
“Rhodes is not a black and white character, maybe they aren’t scholarly enough to bother to research Rhodes’ history in detail,” he said, calling it “Character of importance and interest and of enormous generosity Oxford.
MP Tom Hunt also called on Parliament to take “the time for us to discuss what we can do to prevent the ‘wokification’ of Oxbridge Colleges? “
Rhodes, who founded Rhodesia and served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in the 1890s, supported apartheid-style measures in southern Africa, The Telegraph said. He is also known to have endowed the fund which supports the famous Rhodes scholarship in 1903.
Students started the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign in 2015, but it was reinvigorated after other statues were toppled during the Black Lives Matter protests last year, The Telegraph said.
Other Oxford academics called the boycott “pathetic” and “ridiculous,” The Telegraph said.
“The petition is clearly bonkers and adults around Oxford should know better,” a speaker told the UK newspaper.
“It’s crazy putting their signal of virtue out on Oriel’s undergraduates. ”