A message from the College Consuls regarding the History Group report and ongoing dialogue - 5 November 2021
The College History Group was set up ‘to examine the history of the College through its links to the British Empire, and to report on the current understanding and reception of the College’s legacy and heritage in the context of its present-day mission’. Recently, the Group published a report together with some recommendations that are to be debated widely with all Imperial stakeholders over the coming months. In the days following the report’s publication, it has become clear that while some parts have been widely applauded, others have invoked a range of perspectives that might challenge the navigation of a constructive path forward.
The report singles out some historical figures who have been undercelebrated, and how, in seeking redress, the diversity of Imperial’s scientific heritage might be better reflected. The Consuls strongly endorse this positive enterprise and have sought to contribute by identifying further cases that merit celebration.
The report also discusses how other individuals who have made significant scientific or philanthropic contributions to the College, were also linked historically with behaviours and opinions that, viewed through a contemporary moral lens, are wrong. Defence or advocacy of slavery and eugenics are examples. The report avers that it is not promoting a ‘cancel culture’. One positive approach that might be taken in controversial cases could be to present a complete ‘warts and all’ picture, where identification of the individual's contributions to College and society is combined with recognition and description of other, now unacceptable, aspects of their behaviours and/or opinions. Statues, monuments and buildings, if not being removed or renamed, might be prominently explained.
The report ends by recommending that the College community engages in a dialogue to debate and agree actions with the aim of "enhancing the College as a place to work, study and grow". The Consuls strongly endorse the aims and benefits of this dialogue. We encourage our community to engage as fully and widely as possible, whilst maintaining tolerance of and respect for alternative points of view. We will ourselves participate, expressing our individual, and not always convergent, views as part of that engagement.
Martyn Boutelle, Consul for FoE and ICBS
Dorian Haskard, Consul for FoM
Richard Jardine, Senior Consul
Liz Lightstone, Consul for FoM
Martin McCall, Consul for FoNS and Consul for FoNs and Education Office
Ann Muggeridge, Consul for FoE and ICBS