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Oriel College announces details of Independent Commission of Inquiry into Rhodes Statue

Oriel College has announced details of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Rhodes statue. Whilst the Oriel College Governing Body has expressed its wish to see the statue removed, the Commission has the license to consider a full range of options for the statue’s future.

Carole Sauter CBE, a former Chief Executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and current Master of St. Cross College, will be chairing the Commission. In addition to the Chair, there are eight members of the Commission, including former Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Peter Ainsworth, Chair of the Royal African Society Zeinab Badawi and Michelle Codrington-Rogers, current President of the NASUWT Teacher’s Union.

Welcoming the Commission, Carole Sauter said: “Each of [the new Commissioners] has already made a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge, access and diversity within their relevant sphere of expertise, and I look forward to chairing their discussions on how the Rhodes legacy can best inform the future of Oriel College.”

A website set up by the Commission states that between July and September 2020, the Commission “will specifically invite contributions from members of the College (including students, faculty, staff and alumni), from Oxford City Council, from the Rhodes Must Fall movement, from other interested parties in the city, and from individuals with particular expertise in aspects of its terms of reference.”

The Commission has committed to undertaking research relating to the legacy of Cecil Rhodes, including the Oriel College statue, as well as discussing “access, inclusion and diversity with particular reference to BAME undergraduates, graduate students and faculty”. However, the Commission has stated that it will not consider racial discrimination at the College, but instead discuss “the role of the leadership and culture at the College and how it fosters a welcoming environment for students from a BAME background”.

Between the months of October and November, “the commission will invite expert witnesses, with diverse views, to contribute to online public sessions, along the lines of parliamentary select committees. (Online sessions will enable a wider audience to engage than sessions held in Oxford.)” The Commission has stated that it intends to record and upload all public evidence sessions to its website.

Submissions to the Inquiry can be made via the website: www.oriel-rhodes-commission.co.uk/share-your-view or by post to: Commission of Inquiry, c/o Oriel College, Oriel Square, Oxford, OX1 4EW.

The Commission’s final report is set to be published in January 2021. Before this date, the Commission has stated it will not release any interim findings. All final decisions will lie with the Governing Body of Oriel College.

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