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Oxford Union vote to remove Cecil Rhodes statue from campus

CECIL MUST GO: Students at Oxford University have voted in favour of removing the statue of 19th century colonialist Sir Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College

STUDENTS AT Oxford University have voted in favour of removing the statue of 19th century colonialist Sir Cecil Rhodes from one of its colleges.

The result of the non-binding vote at the Oxford Union, which followed a fierce debate between those who argue the statue of the Victorian imperialist is proof that Oxford is "institutionally racist", was 245 votes for the motion and 212 against.

It follows the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, which started at South Africa's University of Cape Town (UCT).

The campaign for the statue's removal from the university’s grounds received global attention and led to a wider movement to "decolonise" education across South Africa.

On April 9, 2015, following a UCT Council vote the previous night, the statue was removed.

For months students of the Rhodes Must Fall movement have been campaigning for the removal of the statue from Oriel College because of his views on other races and his colonial past.

Oriel College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford, is consulting on the statue's future and has decided to remove a plaque to the mining magnate.

It has already agreed to remove a plaque in his honour and is launching a six-month consultation to decide whether to remove the statue.

Professor Nigel Biggar, who teaches moral and pastoral theology at Christ Church, Oxford, said that if the statue of Rhodes must fall, then statues of Winston Churchill should also be removed.

"If Rhodes must fall, so must Churchill, whose views on empire and race were similar. And so probably must Abraham Lincoln. While Lincoln liberated African-American slaves, he doubted they could be integrated into white society and favoured their separate development—their apartheid—in an African colony."

He added: "If we insist on our heroes being pure, then we aren’t going to have any. Last year the shine on Mahatma Gandhi’s halo came off, when we learned of his view that Indians were culturally superior to black Africans. Should this blot out all his remarkable achievements? I think not."

He said Rhodes was “not racist” and “didn’t hold black Africans in general contempt. He didn’t view them as biologically inferior and incapable of cultural development”.

Last week the university denied the charges of racism. A spokesman said: "Oxford is committed both to supporting potential and current ethnic minority students and to ensuring an appreciation of cultural diversity is fully embedded in the wider university community."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the university's chancellor Lord Patten said students with such views "should think about being educated elsewhere”.

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