May 3, 2021
St. Anne’s College JCR will discuss a motion this Sunday that proposes to announce the Common Room’s opposition to the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) campaign.The motion resolves to, “Publicly announce [the Common Room’s] opposition to the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, and any form of politically motivated iconoclasm in the university and its constituent colleges/PPHs”; “urge Oriel College to keep the statue of Rhodes and its associated plaques in their current position”; and, “lobby other JCRs to make resolutions opposing the Rhodes Must Fall campaign”.An email sent to the JCR encouraged those in “opposition of the motion (thus, supporting the RMF campaign)” to come to the meeting “in the interest of having a fully engaging, intellectual debate.”Matthew Kirtley, who proposed the motion along with Henry Williams, told Cherwell, “Generally, I’m antipathic towards the pernicious identity politics and attempts at playing at intergenerational guilt which seem implicit in the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. That served as my initial motivation why I opposed RMF, and why it was so easy for me to jump on board with the motion. The rationale for the motion is that we both believe that the statue must stand pretty sincerely, and we think a lot of other people do along with us. I’d like to get those people to remember that they’re not alone in their sentiments, and they have every right to respond to the RMF campaign.“The key principle at hand is that we don’t believe the cultural heritage of Oxford or Britain should be removed based upon our entirely contingent contemporary moral and political norms. I don’t see that the statue of Rhodes has any attached moral standing to it, other than the commemoration of his philanthropy towards Oriel and the University. It serves to acknowledge his donation, not to acknowledge his social, moral, or political views. Heritage is important as it serves to tell to us and posterity what helped influence the institutions that used to and still exist, and also tell us of the people who shaped said institutions. Who’s to say in a thousand years Rhodes will be as controversial as he is? “To attempt to claim that our generation alone has reached the apotheosis of moral and political thought is chauvinistic and naive. Depriving the future of the introspective value our heritage provides – such as removing the statue and whitewashing the origins of Oriel’s Rhodes Building away – to satisfy our contingent moral ideals does not strike me as right.”Other Common Rooms have passed motions in support of RMF, including St Catherine’s JCR and MCR, Christ Church’s GCR and St Hilda’s JCR.The Rhodes Must Fall campaign has been contacted for comment.