The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait is officially removed from the common area at Oxford University’s Magdalen College after students voted to remove the picture due to concerns about it symbolizing colonialism.
Graduate students who voted Monday to take the portrait down from the College’s Middle Common Room said that in some students’ eyes, “depictions of the monarch and the British monarchy represent recent colonial history,” according to minutes from the debate reported by Oxford Mail.
English Education Secretary Gavin Williamson criticized the move on Twitter by saying:
“Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd. She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK.
During her long reign, she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity & respect around the world.”
Magdalen College President Dinah Rose says decisions about what to display in the common room are up to the students, not the College.
“Here are some facts about Magdalen College and HM the Queen. The Middle Common Room is an organization of graduate students. They don’t represent the College.
A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.
They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College’s. Magdalen strongly supports free speech and political debate and the MCR’S right to autonomy.
Maybe they’ll vote to put it up again. Maybe they won’t. Meanwhile, the photo will be safely stored.
Being a student is about more than studying. It’s about exploring and debating ideas. It’s sometimes about provoking the older generation. It looks like that isn’t so hard to do these days.
So if you are one of the people currently sending obscene and threatening messages to the College staff, you might consider pausing and asking yourself whether that is the best way to show your respect for the Queen.
Or whether she’d be more likely to support the traditions of free debate and democratic decision-making that we are keeping alive at Magdalen.”
The vote to remove the photo came less than a week after The Guardian reported that at least through the late 1960s, Buckingham Palace barred “colored immigrants or foreigners” from serving in office roles. The portrait in Magdalen College reportedly dates from that era.