History Group Report and dialogue - 26 October 2021
Last June we commissioned a group to undertake a frank review of our institution’s history and the impact that this has on our present-day mission.
This independent group - made up of staff and student representatives from across our community, as well as external advisors - examined historical evidence, unearthed forgotten history and reflected on what they have discovered. We welcome their report, which we are sharing with our community today.
We asked the group to be bold, honest and ambitious with their ideas. They have made a series of proposals and recommendations. Now we would like our community to reflect on these findings and recommendations and to join a dialogue on how to respond to these important issues.
There are many impressive figures from our past – especially women and people of colour - who have not had the recognition that they deserve. The report calls on us to find fitting new ways to mark and celebrate their profound contributions and achievements.
It also identifies figures we mark on our campuses who expressed views or acted in a way that go against the values we take pride in. The group calls for the renaming of some buildings or rooms, in recognition of our modern values.
The report marks the start of a new dialogue. We have not made any decisions yet. We want to give our community the opportunity to reflect and respond. Over the coming months, we will engage with staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders to better understand your views.
This dialogue will prioritise free expression, respect for all views and learning, and will be guided by our new Values and Behaviours around cultivating an inclusive and impactful College community. There are many possible outcomes. It’s up to us to shape them.
Great universities and the people who make them are complex and worth understanding properly. As a scientific institution we constantly question and challenge our own assumptions. Now we must do that for our own past.
We cannot change history, but we can work to better understand it, learn lessons, and strive to build a living, breathing, constantly changing College that reflects our values. This will deepen and enrich our understanding of the history and the legacy we have inherited. It is our responsibility as an academic community to understand and reflect on that as we build our own future.
Professor Alice Gast, President
Professor Ian Walmsley, Provost