As an untutored non-Graduate, it is likely that my views on the collective outburst of Oxford Dons will attract the criticism that “he is too stupid to understand the issues”. However, allow me to express dismay at the public vilification of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson; such vituperation is not only unjust but also risks fanning the flames of discord on an issue which she reasonably suggests Nelson Mandela – “a man of deep nuance” – might well have suggested a need to recognise “ complex problems for what they were”. The Dons open outburst, combined with their factitious criticism of Professor Biggar, who dared to suggest “that society should take a more balanced view of the Empire rather than simply remembering it with shame”, has done little towards lowering the temperature of an already overheated debate. My untutored conclusion is that the Vice Chancellor has taken a moderate stance whereas the Dons have not. Within this miasma of professorial vindictiveness, some may find it ironic to observe that the Professor of African History is a white man which begs the question: How job secure does he feel is in the current climate?
Further, it seems a pity that the ranting Common Room seems to have failed to offer due recognition to the Vice Chancellor’s actions in overhauling the: Application system; recruitment process; and outreach programmes. Last year, this first female Vice Chancellor announced a new foundation-year scheme committed to boosting the proportion of disadvantaged and minority ethnic students from 15% to 25% by 2023. It is beginning to look as the she has made positive efforts to make Oxford an egalitarian University that is better suited to the 21st Century. All this adds to my confusion surrounding the union of Professors’ unpleasant outburst.
Such thoughts are not a million miles from a Widecombe-in-the-Moor resident:
‘I write to applaud the wise words of the Vice-Chancellor of my old university – “Hiding our history is not the route to enlightenment”. In modern India relics of the colonial and earlier eras are broadly accepted as part of that great nation’s shared history. We should do the same, and concentrate on what needs to be done now in 2020 to create a genuinely equal society.’
It is also encouraging to read Marie Daouda, a Moroccan lecturer in French at Oxford University, say this in her Daily Telegraph article: “White guilt is unhelpful and condescending. Whenever someone tries to deploy it, I tell them that my ancestors were involved in the slave trade too”