by Noah Carl
Friday, 11
June 2021
Reaction
11:50

Here’s an idea for the Oxford dons: resign in protest

If they are committed to the cause, they should reconsider their positions
by Noah Carl
(Photo by Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

During the First World War, the philosopher Bertrand Russell was an outspoken and defiant pacifist. In 1916, he was prosecuted for “making statements likely to prejudice the recruiting discipline of His Majesty’s forces”. This led to his dismissal from Trinity College, and prevented him from taking up an appointment at Harvard. Then in 1918, he was sentenced to six months in prison for writing an article that criticised the US Army.

Though Russell later said that he “found prison in many ways quite agreeable”, the man clearly paid a cost for his anti-war activism. The same cannot be said of today’s academic activists, who prefer to shift the costs of their activism onto others.

On Wednesday, The Telegraph reported that more than 150 Oxford dons are boycotting Oriel College as a protest against its decision to keep the statue of Cecil Rhodes. The academics say that “until Oriel makes a credible public commitment to remove the statue”, they will refuse to teach Oriel undergraduates, refuse to assist the college in its outreach work, and refuse to attend lectures sponsored by the college.

In other words, they are withholding educational resources from Oriel students because of a decision made by the institution to which those students belong. Note: this is more-or-less what the United States does when it put sanctions on intransigent regimes (i.e., it imposes costs on the people of those countries because of decisions taken by their leaders). Quite ironic for the Oxford dons to have adopted the tactics of a “neocolonial” power.

Of course, given the academics’ juvenile behaviour, one may question how valuable the withheld educational resources really are. (Perhaps the boycott will be a boon for Oriel students.) But more importantly, is there any personal cost to those involved?

In fact, by remaining in their positions, they’re arguably legitimising the Rhodes statue. Surely someone who truly wished to “eradicate racism and address the ongoing effects of colonialism” would refuse to work at any university that glorified such an individual? 

The Telegraph named four of the academics involved in the boycott, and they all appear to be white. Since white people are overrepresented at Britain’s oldest university, a more meaningful way for these academics to protest “the ongoing effects of colonialism” would be to resign and give up their positions to members of underrepresented groups.

But don’t expect to see resignations any time soon. Unlike Russell, today’s academic activists are quite content with their positions and wouldn’t dream of giving them up for something they profess to believe in.

Noah Carl is an independent researcher and writer. You can follow him on Twitter @NoahCarl90

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Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

The academics say that “until Oriel makes a credible public commitment to remove the statue”, they will refuse to teach Oriel undergraduates, refuse to assist the college in its outreach work, and refuse to attend lectures sponsored by the college.
So, what do their contracts of employment look like? Can they just be sacked? I hear every day that there aren’t enough jobs for graduates so they should be able to fill the vacancies easily enough.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

If these 150 intolerant academics are unhappy they should leave or else be fired. Fight back. Start taking names. Their ultimatum should not be seriously considered.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Of course they’d never resign because they’d then be forced to make a living in the real world. Far easier to sponge off the brand that they are rapidly devaluing.

Michael James
Michael James
1 year ago

Oxford university should compensate the boycotted fee-paying students with deductions from the boycotters’ salaries.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
1 year ago

Impeccable logic. Will these 150 academics take a principled stand, or confine themselves to gesture politics as a sop to their conscience? I think we all know the answer.

Last edited 1 year ago by Howard Gleave
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

I would have thought they could all be summarily dismissed for bringing the university into disrepute.

William Hickey
William Hickey
1 year ago

Because Wokeness has no goals, the establishment is very comfortable espousing it. That keeps the Woke staff happy, but makes wokeness a parasite, dependent on the survival of its host.

As Peter Franklin wrote here yesterday, “Wokeness would be nothing without its influence over the institutions of a society it despises. It is therefore in no position to dismantle anything.”

That reliance makes Wokeness the enforcer of the big against the small, the corporation against the individual, the university against the students, the status quo against the dissenter.

In the end Wokeness — and the woke Oxford faculty — cares only about itself.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Hickey
Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 year ago

In a swift response, a modest proposal: we give the Dons a fair hanging and a trial.

JP Martin
JP Martin
1 year ago

They care more about a statue than they care about their students. They can and should be replaced.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

Having had various run-ins with administration systems during Covid, my phrase for the summer is ‘logical … but stupid’.
It seems to have infected most of academia and the public sector. A self-consistent idea that in its own little narrative bubble looks logical, but becomes a laughing stock when it runs into reality of edge-cases, trade-offs, downstream consequences, competing views and plain real life. Huge amounts of British comedy used to take the michael out of “logical … but stupid” bureaucracies and the too-clever-for-his-own-good brigade.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

My thoughts entirely.
Why on earth are they not cancelling each other for the “utter disgrace” of working for such as organisation.
contemptible hypocrites.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Julia H
Julia H
1 year ago

Surely these dons are engaged in unofficial industrial action which exposes them to the risk of fair dismissal? The nature of the dispute is such that it could never be made official and thereby gain immunity from retaliatory action by the employer because it doesn’t qualify as a trade dispute.

Last edited 1 year ago by Julia H
Dave Pike
Dave Pike
1 year ago

Hi Noah, on the subject of academic shenanigans was there ever any update on how you used the funds raised (to which I contributed) for your own case defence?

Noah Carl
Noah Carl
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Pike

Hi David, there is a final update here. And I donated the money that was left over in my crowdfund to Will Knowland.

Dave Pike
Dave Pike
1 year ago
Reply to  Noah Carl

Thanks- I don’t tweet so hadn’t seen that.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
1 year ago

The comparison you make is irrelevant. Russell didn’t resign he was dismissed, if he had not been he would, presumably have kept his fellowship. So you can hardly use him as an example of someone making a sacrifice that others should follow