Top universities should, undoubtedly, take on the social responsibility of championing equality and diversity. And yet, Oxford has been criticised for being one of the most male, pale and stale centres of learning in the UK. Most of the portraits hung on the walls of the great colleges are of famous men; many of whom died years ago and are unlikely to be recognised by today’s movers and shakers. New portraits are now being commissioned to take their place. Gay, female and black icons including women such as Libby Lane, the first Anglican bishop, and Naomi Wolf, feminist writer and former Rhodes scholar, are among the first to be so honoured.
Inequality fractures society and builds anger, resentment and bitterness. More work must be done to celebrate the cultural diversity that so enriches any group. Unbelievably, in 2014, only 27 of the 2,500 undergraduates at Oxford were black. That is just 1.08%. If you change the iconography, you can change the way people see society. They must do more to encourage diversity and oppose elite classism or discrimination of any kind.
The student body is being asked to suggest names of those who would better represent our diversity in gender, race, disability and sexual orientation. So who would you nominate and why?