Students wore red as they matriculated on Saturday in protest at what they say is the University’s continued celebration of colonialism and lack of diversity.
The protest, organized by Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford, was said by the group to have included around 1000 people, who protested by incorporating red into their sub-fusc for matriculation and by sharing images of themselves with messages in support of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign on social media.
Commenting on the protest, a statement from Rhodes Must Fall stated: “Rhodes Must Fall Oxford is launching the new academic year at the University of Oxford with a ‘Matricul-action Against Oppression’ today. Today thousands of Oxford students ‘matriculate’. They enter the University of Oxford, and have to dress up in gowns and white shirts for the occasion.
“At this event that marks the beginning of the academic year, Rhodes Must Fall Oxford organising members will distribute red ribbons for students to wear with their gowns and white shirts. Rhodes Must Fall Oxford has also encouraged supporters to incorporate the colour red into their appearance in other ways – by wearing red nail polish, red jewellery, or a red undershirt.
“The wearing of the colour red is a vivid reminder of the blood that has been shed as a result of colonial domination – at the hands of renowned Oxford figures such as Cecil Rhodes and Christopher Codrington.
“Cecil Rhodes has a statue and building named after him at Oxford, in addition to the Rhodes Scholarships, despite being responsible for land alienation, disenfranchisement, and racist legislation in South Africa. Christopher Codrington has a library named after him, the Codrington Library at All Souls College, though Codrington was a prominent slave-owner and insisted on the continuation of slave-ownership after his death.
“The wearing of red by matriculating students draws attention to this bloodshed and related oppression, and highlights Oxford’s red-tape culture, which slows down change. Rhodes Must Fall Oxford also hopes that the wearing of red underscores the need for passion and transformation to raise awareness of these issues in the coming year at Oxford.
“Rhodes Must Fall Oxford looks forward to a year of transformation at Oxford, and hopes that this matricul-action is a sign of things to come.”
Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford was formed earlier this year following the success of a campaign in South Africa to have a statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from the University of Cape Town. Central to the group’s campaigning has been a call for the University to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes overlooking the High Street from Oriel College, and to ‘decolonise’ its curriculum.
A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told The Oxford Student: “The university 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. We will continue to reflect on the issues raised by our 2014 race equality summit, which brought together staff, student union members and the student-led Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality. This has resulted in concrete curriculum review work and an extended programme of activities aimed at encouraging and supporting ethnic minority applicants to Oxford.”