Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg via Getty Images
The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II will no longer be hung in a key gathering place at Magdalen College at the University of Oxford, after students voted to remove the photo over concerns over the symbolization of colonialism.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson strongly criticized the movement, calling it “just absurd” and saying the Queen is “a symbol of the best in the UK”.
But graduate students who voted on Monday to remove the portrait from the college’s middle common room – the center of social life – said that in the eyes of some students, “depictions of the British monarch and monarchy represent the recent colonial history, “according to the minutes. of the debate reported in the local media.
Magdalen College President Dinah Rose said decisions about what to display in the common room are with the students, not the college. She also noted that it was the group of students themselves that originally purchased the photograph, in 2013.
“Maybe they will vote to put it back, maybe they won’t”, Rose said. “Until then, the photo will be stored securely.”
The vote to remove the photo came less than a week after The Guardian reported that at least until the late 1960s, Buckingham Palace prohibited ‘immigrants of color or foreigners’ from holding positions administrative. The portrait of Magdalen College dates from this period.
Rose, who herself is a Magdalen graduate, became the college president after a long career as a lawyer, working in areas such as human rights and public law. She hinted that She does not agree with the students’ position – but she also presented a vigorous defense on their behalf.
“Being a student is more than studying. It’s about exploring and debating ideas,” said Rose.
“Sometimes it’s about provoking the older generation. It seems like it’s not that hard to do these days.”
The removal of a portrait sparks criticism and debate
Indeed, the ruling has sparked accusations that a group of “awakened” students are indeed trying to overturn the Queen. British media also note that Magdalen’s middle common room is currently chaired by an American, Matthew Katzman.
Stronger criticism, even threats, come in other ways. In response, Rose said, “So if you’re one of the people who is currently sending obscene and threatening messages to college staff, you might consider taking a break and asking yourself if this is really the best way to show off. your respect for the queen. “
The University of Oxford has dozens of colleges, which operate on a semi-autonomous basis. Madeleine is on the older side, having been founded in 1458.
British college common rooms offer a range of activities, from daily conveniences to formal dinners. The term “average” generally applies to graduate students. The term “middle common room” or MCR is often used interchangeably to refer to the students themselves and their meeting place.
The MCR at Magdalen College says it aims to be “a welcoming and vibrant community”.
In a recent unofficial Oxford-wide ranking of college intermediate common rooms governing practices based on their transparency and accountability, Magdalen’s RCM received the third highest rating.
The controversy spilled over to Magdalen’s Facebook page – a possibility that left some perplexed. The college touted the ongoing summer torpedoes – rowing races in which eight-row boats attempt to grab and run into rival boats.
Some critics of the portrait’s decision used the college’s racing articles to express their disapproval:
“I never thought I could be ashamed of a great college that has been a center of learning for many years,” wrote one man, saying the tradition “has been tarnished by a body of individuals short”.
But another woman commented: “This is an article on rowing – I won’t watch because it’s not something I’ve ever really understood and it’s not for me. not outraged by this message. I wonder if there is something wrong with me? “