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Oxford- A Modern Institution?

When one is part of an institution whose leadership of ancient white men is so receptive and open to change, one can often forget that the University of Oxford is, in fact, rather old. I often think we as students fail to recognise how modern our dear institution has become.

Perhaps this modern revolution is best illustrated in the joie de vivre with which our university has embraced social media. When criticised by MP David Lammy for a subpar intake of BAME and working-class students, the University displayed it’s adeptness at 21st century communication, genially responding by liking a random tweet that described him as “bitter”. I have heard similar glowing reviews of geniality from fellow BAME students, who assure me they are stopped and cordially greeted by a porter every time they attempt to enter the threshold of a college.

Obviously, as one of the world’s best universities, Oxford and its colleges have also shown a truly modern and progressive attitude in confronting their racist past. One needs only to look at Oriel College’s handling of a campaign demanding the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes. As we have come to expect, Oriel gracefully began a consultation process, no doubt involving the opinions of it’s incredibly diverse and representative governing body. Although Oriel stood to lose £100 million in gifts should the statue have been removed, who are we to doubt their claim of “overwhelming” support for the statue in their consultation process? Instead, as members of the university we should be proud of our institution’s allegiance to those famous modern values of partaking in open debate, expressing divergent views, and refusing to condemn colonialism. 

In a world where institutions of power emulate only COVID-19 in their repeated and disproportionate targeting of BAME communities, it is perhaps unsurprising that Oxford’s students follow the stellar example of our university’s leadership. The committed adherence of some JCRs to constitutional policy despite appalling racist comments truly shows how far into the modern age Oxford has progressed.

I shall leave you with my hope that Oxford as an institution will modernise further. Often, we as students quietly inspect the caring and considerate actions of our university and colleges. We wordlessly watch the staunchly democratic actions of our JCRs, silently listen to the divergent views of our student body. We join the revolution through a quick status update on Facebook, make racists cower from the black squares of our Instagram posts. And the world changes. For two weeks.

Dear reader, I must admit that I had originally intended to end on an allegory. I do hope that you will forgive me, but I was simply incapable of the creative thought required to compare trivial events to an innocent man’s murder. Silly me.

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