Last week was a rather interesting one in Oxford.
First, the infamous Guido Fawkes revealed that the Middle Commons Room of Magdalen College Oxford voted to take down the portrait of The Queen in said room because she “represents recent colonial history” or something.
To make matters worse, the scholar who made the motion is a foreigner, an American to be exact, Matthew Katzman. Now what kind of a prat visits the UK from overseas to study and then tries to take Her Majesty’s portrait down? This kind of a prat it seems:
The 25-year-old is the son of a lawyer who lives in a £4 million mansion in Washington DC…. He attended a £33,000 posh college attended by the Obama’s daughters and Chelsea Clinton, then went to the elite Stanford University, before arriving at Oxford to study for a PhD in ‘complexity theory’.
One can imagine how this act is being received in the UK. On the bright side, I suspect portraits of The Queen and embellishments are selling more briskly this week. And I am reminded to pray heartily that she would “vanquish all her enemies.”
Even more egregious, if that is possible, is that 150 Oxford academics have pledged to boycott Oriel College for not taking down its statue of Cecil Rhodes. Readers may know that there has been a “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign for years because, yes again, colonialism! That even though he was progressive in a number of ways particularly for his day. Yes, he was a mixed figure. Who wasn’t? Who isn’t?
Anyway, some of what the 150 pledge is “pompous” but within their rights. But one item crosses a line. They say they will “refuse requests from Oriel to give tutorials to Oriel undergraduates.” Yes, they intend to punish Oriel undergraduates, including, one presumes, the many from minority backgrounds, a result of pointed Oriel efforts to diversify. As Dominic Sandbrook notes:
Proportionately Oriel has one of Oxford’s largest state school intakes and runs regular programmes to attract black and Asian applicants, as well as those from deprived backgrounds. Many of its students, in other words, have worked tremendously hard and made great sacrifices to win their places.
They did so to have the chance of working with specialists in their fields – which is where the 150 dons come in. As retribution for Oriel’s refusal to toe the ultra-woke line, these self-righteous blackmailers propose to punish the college’s students.
What makes this even more galling is that a leader of the Woke 150 is the Provost of Worchester College, Kate Tunstall. The head of one Oxford College is directly attacking another, including its students. As a “senior Don” has commented, “This is despicable and mean-minded. It is unprecedented for the head of one college to attack and detract from the teaching of students at another college.”
The Vice-Chancellor of the University (Which is for practical purposes the highest office at Oxford, not the Chancellor. Don’t ask why.) Louise Richardson has made a strong statement by Oxford standards, “Oxford’s brilliant academics are rightly renowned for their dedication to teaching, so I am deeply disappointed that some of my colleagues would choose to punish students, and prospective students, for the actions of their College’s governing body, especially after the prolonged disruption of teaching during the pandemic.” But there are no public sanctions against the 150 as of yet.
Oxford has survived much worse. The University survived the Puritans after being the headquarters for King Charles during their Civil War. But wokeness ruins or at least threatens to ruin just about everything it touches, even Oxford. Instead of discussing and examining both the good and the bad of the old British Empire, instead of working together to study and to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to study, instead of doing what Oxford does so well, Oxford is at each other’s throats with not just statues but students at risk. Some have dubbed this another civil war at Oxford. I hope that is overstating the matter, but what the woke have wrought there is not good.
And if Oxford allows the woke to have their way, where does it stop? When I’ve read in the wonderful libraries there, my studies were supervised by old portraits of old worthies above me. They inspired me and reminded me of my obligations to both the past and the future.
But they were racist. Take them down! And most of the books that surrounded me were written by dead White males. Remove them! And the horrors of the unenlightened views of the dead White men that built the colleges of Oxford. Those old vestiges of Western hegemony are hard to maintain anyway. Raze them!
Perhaps I am being alarmist although some portraits were already down and the Rhodes Must Fall campaign well under way when I last visited in 2018. And woke absurdity has since progressed (if that is the word) more than most anticipated with even The Queen a target. So the question remains. Where does it stop?
It doesn’t stop until we stop the woke. If Oxford and the rest of us desire a future fully enriched by the past, we must tell the woke they are entitled to their views and are surely entitled to criticize the past and the present. But they are not entitled to take down our institutions, our academic freedoms and free speech, and our Western heritage.
If we do not have that much backbone, it is not only Oxford at risk.