St Anne’s Common Rooms debate RMF

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St Anne’s College JCR discussed a motion on Sunday 24th January that proposed to announce the Common Room’s opposition to the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) campaign.

The motion resolved 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” to come to the meeting “in the interest of having a fully engaging, intellectual debate.”

Matthew Kirtley, who proposed the motion, told Cherwell, “Generally, I’m antipathetic towards the pernicious identity politics and attempts at playing at inter-generational 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?”

There was spirited debate at the meeting, resulting in 18 pages of minutes. A constitutional technicality precluded voting. As a result, an Emergency Meeting was held Wednesday evening to resume debate on the motion.

At the same time, St. Anne’s Middle Common Room held an Emergency Meeting to vote on one motion to establish “support for the ‘Fall of Rhodes’ as outlined by RMFO,” and another to acknowledge “that distinctive issues are faced by BME students at the University of Oxford and…that more should be done on a university and college level to: increase the representation and voice of BME and other minority members of our community; and take action to address the concerns raised.”

After its meeting, St. Anne’s JCR told Cherwell, “St Anne’s JCR voted against a motion calling for a public announcement by the JCR of its opposition to the removal of the statue of Rhodes from Oriel College.

The debate on the motion encompassed a wide range of views, and the failure of the motion to pass does not amount to an official statement that Rhodes must fall. There were 34 votes for the motion; 97 against; six abstentions; one spoilt.”

On the other hand, St. Anne’s MCR passed its motions. In a statement, the Common Room said, “This body of approximately 300 members voted on 26 January 2016 to unequivocally support the aims and goals of Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford.”

They continued, “We further stress that we support the wider aims of the Rhodes Must Fall movement: diversifying curriculum to include scholarship outside of the Western canon, increasing representation of Black and Minority Ethnic students and staff at the university, and lastly, relocating Oriel’s Cecil Rhodes statue into a museum to place it in proper historical context.

“St. Anne’s College was founded as a woman’s college in 1879 and became coeducational in 1979. It was founded specifically on politically progressive values of inclusion and equality. St. Anne’s MCR is happy to join with fellow colleges at the University of Oxford in supporting Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford.”

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