Oxford college recommends removal of Cecil Rhodes statue

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A statue of Cecil Rhodes, the controversial Victorian imperialist who supported apartheid-style measures in southern Africa stands mounted on the facade of Oriel College in Oxford, England, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. The governing body of Oriel College are meeting today to discuss the future of the statue. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

LONDON (AP) — The governing body of Oxford University’s Oriel College has recommended the removal of a statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes that has long been the target of protests — though it won’t be taken down immediately.

The college’s governors met Wednesday and said they had “voted to launch an independent Commission of Inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.”

In a statement, Oriel College’s governing body, made up of faculty, said they had “expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes” and a plaque to him, adding that “this is what they intend to convey to the Independent Commission of Inquiry.”

Rhodes made a fortune in the late 19th century from gold and diamond mines where miners labored in brutal conditions. He was an education benefactor whose legacy includes Oxford University’s prestigious Rhodes scholarships, which have been awarded to international students for over a century.

His statue was removed from the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 2015 after students led a “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign.

A similar campaign has sought the removal of his statue in Oxford. The movement had gained new momentum since the death of George Floyd spurred anti-racism protests around the world and a renewed debate on colonialism in Britain.

Earlier this month, protesters in the English city of Bristol pulled down a controversial statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the harbor.

Oriel’s governors said the commission would include people from academia, education policy, law, politics and journalism and would investigate broader issues of diversity at the college.

The statue will stay up until the inquiry finishes its work later this year.