The Governing Body of Oriel College has today (Wednesday 17th June) voted to launch an independent Commission of Inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue. They also expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque. This is what they intend to convey to the Independent Commission of Inquiry.
Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.
The Commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st Century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.
At today’s meeting, the Governing Body also approved the appointment of an independent Chair for the Commission of Inquiry, Carole Souter CBE, the current Master of St Cross College and former Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who in turn will approach a number of individuals drawn from the worlds of academia, education policy, law, politics and journalism. The commission is intending to draw upon the greatest possible breadth and depth of experience, opinion and background.
The Inquiry will, in turn, invite submissions from a broad range of stakeholders from Oxford itself and the country as a whole; the students, representatives of Rhodes Must Fall and Oxford City council, as well as alumni of Oxford and Oriel and citizens of the city. Written and oral evidence will be requested. It is intended that some oral evidence sessions will be held in public, with similar rules of engagement to that of a parliamentary select committee.
By setting up this commission, Oriel governing body is demonstrating that it is willing to be guided by all its stakeholders.
The Governing Body believes that this decision will allow a serious, appropriate and productive resolution of a complex series of issues.
Ms Souter has insisted on a thorough process - but conducted at pace - and set to report to the Governing Body by the end of January 2021.