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A committee of students at Oxford University’s Magdalen College voted to take down a portrait of Queen Elizabeth that hung in the school’s common area after a “woke” American graduate student and lecturer complained that the Queen symbolized an era of “colonialism” that made some students feel unwelcome.
“Students at one of Oxford University’s elite colleges have voted to remove a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II because she ‘represents recent colonial history,'” the New York Post reported. “Members of the Middle Common Room at Magdalen College voted by a substantial majority to remove the monarch’s portrait, according to minutes obtained by the popular UK political blog Guido Fawkes.”
A student cited in the meeting minutes explained, “This is about our communal space and making people feel welcome.”
“For some students, depictions of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history,” the minutes noted. Another student was quoted as suggesting that “patriotism and colonialism are not really separable,” and yet another insisted that the move was not akin to “cancelling” the Queen.
The portrait, the Post added, will be replaced with “art by or of other influential and inspirational people” and will be auctioned off. Any future royal portraits will have to be approved by the committee before they’re hung on Magdalen College’s walls.
The move was not without its opponents, who accused Magdalen College’s common areas committee of trying to erase a significant figure from history while she is still alive, and of being “culturally insensitive.”
“In an era where debates on no-platforming and cancel culture rage strong, effectively ‘cancelling’ the Queen and brandishing her as a symbol of colonialism – so often used as a synonym for racism – sends a dire message that is sure to enrage,” one opponent said according to the meeting minutes, citing the fact that Magdalen College is mostly home to graduate students from outside of the United Kingdom. “Moreover, it is culturally insensitive for a common room so heavily comprised of international students to seek to remove a national symbol from a British institution.”
“The cultural heritage of all nations has the right to be respected, and a common room that does not do so cannot claim to be inclusive,” the opposing student concluded.
On Wednesday, the Daily Mail reported that it was a “woke” American scholar who “brought forth the measure to ‘cancel’ the Queen in his role as president of Magdalen’s Middle Common Room (MCR), which is made up of graduates.”
“The Oxford student who tabled the motion to remove an ‘unwelcoming’ portrait of the Queen from Magdalen College’s common room is a privately educated American post-grad who went to school with Barack Obama’s daughter,” the British outlet revealed. “Matthew Katzman is a lecturer in computer science and the son of a top lawyer at international firm Steptoe & Johnson. His family live in a £4million mansion in Washington DC, where he attended $48,000-a-year Sidwell Friends School, a historic Quaker private college.”
Katzman did comment to the Mail, telling the British outlet that “no stance was taken on the Queen or the Royal Family” but that his committee wanted to ensure that Magdalen’s common areas became a “neutral place for all members.”
“The action was taken after a discussion of the purpose of such a space, and it was decided that the room should be a welcoming, neutral place for all members regardless of background, demographic, or views,” Katzman told media. “The Royal Family is on display in many areas of the college, and it was ultimately agreed that it was an unnecessary addition to the common room.”
The move drew swift and serious condemnation from members of the British government and from the Oxford University administration.
“Education Secretary Gavin Williamson calling it ‘absurd’, and Oxford University’s Chancellor Lord Patten condemning the students for being ‘offensive and obnoxiously ignorant,'” the Daily Mail noted. “Prime Minister Boris Johnson this afternoon said backed Mr Williamson’s criticism, with a No 10 spokesman saying: ‘You have had the Education Secretary’s words, which the PM supports.'”
This article has been revised for clarity.