Monday, January 18, 2016

Most Oxford students want to keep Cecil Rhodes statue: Survey finds 54% want monument to remain despite controversial campaign to remove it

Oxford students want a statue of Cecil Rhodes to remain at Oriel College despite a controversial campaign to tear it down over claims it is 'racist'.

The majority oppose calls to remove the memorial to the 19th Century politician, who left vast sums to the university on his death.

A survey of almost 1,000 students by university newspaper Cherwell found 54 per cent want the statue to remain, compared with just 37 per cent who want it removed and 9 per cent who are unsure.

Of those studying at Oriel – traditionally known as a conservative college – only 15 per cent agreed that it should be torn down.

The poll comes after the college was accused of being 'spineless' for agreeing to hold a consultation on the future of the statue, which is more than 100 years old.

Campaigners claim that making ethnic minority students walk past the statue amounts to 'violence' because of Rhodes' role in the colonisation of Africa.

However, Oxford Chancellor Lord Patten dismissed this on Wednesday, calling on the activists to embrace a 'generosity of spirit' towards history.

One respondent to the Cherwell poll said: 'The same logic to removing the Statue of Rhodes would mean that we should demolish Auschwitz. 'How can we learn from the past whilst pretending it didn't happen?'

Another wrote: 'It is important to recognise our own past. By removing the statue, we allow the possibility for these things to happen again. We shouldn't just cover up the history that we are ashamed of.'

A third added: 'I don't see what gives us the right to rewrite history.'

The survey was conducted online through private Facebook pages run by student union representatives for each college.

A total of 967 students responded, representing around 5 per cent of the student population.

Among black and minority ethnic (BME) students, more respondents thought that Oriel should remove the statue than leave it standing.

The poll found 48 per cent wanted the statue removed, 45 per cent disagreed, and seven per cent said 'I don't' know'.

However, the majority of BME students - 51 per cent – said that the removal of Rhodes' statue would not affect their personal experience of Oxford University.

One student told the survey: 'I am a BME student who sincerely believes that this the movement to remove the statue of Mr Rhodes is fundamentally against the principles of democracy, free speech and the respect of one's history.

'I believe that the students who call for the toppling of the statue are only caring about their own egos.'

Another said: 'Of course, Oxford should not condone Rhodes' actions. But the removal of this statue says nothing and does nothing to help BME students.'

A third added: 'Bigger issues with racism at Oxford than a stupid statue.'

Rhodes Must Fall, the group behind the campaign to have the statue removed, includes a student who has himself benefitted from a Rhodes scholarship.

Cherwell's survey also found that 55 per cent of students regard the campaign as having had a very or moderately negative impact on the reputation of the University.

The movement appears to divide opinion among BME students, with 45 per cent viewing the movement favourably and 42 per cent viewing it unfavourably.

Responding to the survey, Oriel told Cherwell: 'The College will take into account all viewpoints presented in the debate about the Rhodes statue.  'All information we receive will feed into the planned listening exercise and further details of this will follow in due course.'

Yesterday, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, a PhD student in International Relations at the university and a leader of the campaign, said Oxford was 'institutionally racist'.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'It's had throughout its history significant biases against black people. The fact that the statue is up there is an indication that not everything is fair now.

'There's something deeply wrong with the way Oxford presents itself, with the way that it has biases against people and we are raising that.'


UK: Ramadan exam move a mistake, says Ofsted boss

Sir Michael Wilshow argues organising A-levels and GCSEs to fit with religious festivals sets a 'difficult precedent'

Exam timetables should not be arranged to accommodate fasting Muslim pupils during Ramadan, the head of Ofsted said yesterday.

Sir Michael Wilshaw argued that organising GCSE and A-level exams to fit in with religious festivals set a 'difficult precedent'.

He warned that making allowances for one religious group could mean others 'pile in' and ask for similar concessions.

His comments follow revelations that exam boards took Ramadan into account when they organised this year's summer exam timetable.

The holy month moves earlier in the calendar by about 11 days every year, and this summer there will be a significant overlap.

It is likely to coincide with the exam season for the next four years, a situation which last arose 30 years ago.

Responding to a caller on LBC Radio yesterday, Sir Michael said adopting the principle could cause logistical issues for schools if they felt obliged to follow suit.

He said: 'I don't believe that we should reorganise the examination timetable to fit in with religious festivals and celebrations. 'Once we do that, we set a very bad precedent.

'This is setting a difficult precedent, because examinations take place throughout the year, and schools set internal assessments throughout the year.

'Once we give in to one religious group then we've got to give in to the other groups who might say "we have a celebration here, a festival here, a holy day there, we want you to change it". Schools would find it hard to manage.'

The summer exams timetable has been arranged so that some exams in key subjects are held before the start of the Islamic holy month.

Where tests in subjects such as maths and English fall during Ramadan, efforts have been made to ensure they are in the morning, because fasting pupils can suffer low energy levels in the afternoon.

Ramadan, which runs from June 6 to July 5 this summer, requires Muslims to avoid food during daylight hours.

Several other religious events are already taken into consideration, including the two-day Jewish festival of Shavuot, which falls in early summer.

Children are prohibited from working and cannot sit exams during the festival, and only some niche subjects have been scheduled for that period.

Margaret Morrissey, of the pressure group Parents Outloud, said it was 'ridiculous' to take into account religious needs. She added: 'If a child had got really bad hay fever, we wouldn't alter the system. You can't keep changing laws, rules, regulations, values, systems, to pander to different cultures.'

A spokesman for the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards, said: 'The timetable for 2016 was drafted over a year ago, is published, and won't be changing.

'Exam boards will always aim to be as fair as possible to all. 'If a small change can be made for any one group that does not impact negatively on most students, it will be considered – but these are made before the timetable is published.'


Liberal Professors Outnumber Conservative Faculty 5 to 1

Academics Explain Why This Matters

Professors in higher education have become notably more liberal during the past 25 years, according to a recent study, and academics predict that the trend isn't likely to slow any time soon.

During the past quarter-century, academia has seen a nearly 20-percent jump in the number of professors who identify as liberal. That increase has created a lopsided ideological spread in higher education, with liberal professors now outpacing their conservative counterparts by a ratio of roughly 5 to 1.

In 2014, 60 percent of professors identified as "liberal" or "far left," according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, as reported by The Washington Post's "Wonkblog."  Compare that with 1990 survey data, when only 42 percent said the same.

While academia has shifted dramatically to the left, professors on the right have dropped off.

The number of professors who identified as "conservative" and "far right" during the same time span fell by nearly 6 percent, while the number of "moderate" academics dropped by 13 percentage points.

Matthew Woessner, an associate professor of political science and public policy at Penn State Harrisburg, studies political trends in higher education and advocates increased diversity of viewpoints with a group of academics who call themselves Heterodox Academy.

Woessner, who says he is a conservative Republican, said the study raises important questions on whether the liberal tilt that has persisted in higher education is becoming more pronounced, and if so, what impact that has on the  national political discourse.

Daniel Klein, a professor of economics at George Mason University, said the reported 5-to-1 ratio is "not very meaningful" because the terms "liberal" and "conservative" have become "exceedingly troubled."  Instead, Klein predicted that the imbalance between faculty who vote Democratic compared with those who vote Republican is closer to 9 to 1 or even 10 to 1.

Either way, as professors have become more liberal, they've shifted far to the left of the general public and their students, Woessner told The Daily Signal.

A Gallup poll released earlier this month found that 38 percent of Americans identify as conservative, versus 24 percent who identify as liberal.

And while the study by the Higher Education Research Institute reported that liberal students outpace conservative students by nearly 10 percent, roughly half identify as moderate. This has created a wide ideological gap between professors and students.

In 2014, college professors were roughly 30 percentage points more likely to identify as liberal than were college freshmen. Compare that to the 1990 findings, when professors were 16 percentage points more likely to label themselves as liberal than were their freshmen students. Woessner said:

    "This raises critical questions of whether students are getting a balanced education—not because there's some conspiracy to block out conservative ideas, but merely because the people who are teaching are either not familiar with or don't embrace conservative ideas".

Even when faculty attempt to present an issue in a balanced and impartial manner, he said, personal biases naturally bleed into material.

According to 2009 data from the Higher Education Research Institute, the number of students who said their political views were "liberal" or "far left" jumped 9.2 percentage points from freshman to senior year.

Carson Holloway, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said the imbalance is most notable in the humanities and social science fields, where the battle of ideas is most important.

Holloway, who also chairs the Council of Academic Advisers at The Heritage Foundation, said the average political scientist in the U.S. is a "mainstream" liberal.

The problem with this, he said, is that a lot of "impressive" thought stemming from Europe fostered conservative ideology, but because not many in the academy represent that tradition, students get a skewed view.

"They might tend to think that conservatism is not an intellectual tradition because they don't see any professors who hold to it, so there's a distortion that emerges there," Holloway told The Daily Signal.

Woessner said the students who are harmed the most by the bias in academia are the liberal ones:

    "Conservatives benefit from having liberal ideas to expand their horizons and challenge their thinking, but ideologically liberal students get their ideas reinforced. This means they're not growing intellectually because they don't have the exposure to other ideas to make them think".

Woessner said an equal number of liberal and conservative professors isn't necessary for higher education to work well, but at least a small minority of faculty on campus should hold different views.

Conservatives who want to become involved in higher education face challenges, he said, and universities should encourage more right-leaning academics to become professors to help shrink the ideological gap.

"The goal should not be an even split, because that's probably impossible, but to create a space for enough conservative ideas that students are exposed at least nominally to these other perspectives," Woessner said.

And although a prescriptive fix to obtain greater balance won't happen on its own, Klein said, "donors, students and parents should vote with their dollars, and voters should vote with their votes against pouring taxpayer money into a leftist apparatus."


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