Sunday, July 25, 2021

RENAMING PRINCIPLES | Harvard's Questions

Old Harvard Law School arms,
with Royall badges,
wheat sheaves or garbs.
 July 26, 2021—The "Rhodes Must Fall" initiative has provoked discussion at Oxford. A parallel debate is taking place in other universities.

The Harvard Law School, for example, before 2016 had wheat sheaves or "garbs" in its coat of arms (Azure three garbs or a chief of Gules three open books argent garnished or the word VE-RI-TAS sable) because of its association with Isaac Royall, Jr., who endowed the first Harvard Law School professorship. 

The Royall wealth was based in part on the family's engagement in the slave trade. Worse, Royall's father "treated his slaves with extreme cruelty, including burning 77 people to death," according to a Law School statement. Martha Minow, dean of the Law School, formed a special committee to study the use of the arms to represent the school and make recommendations.

The student initiative at the Harvard Law School, called Royall Must Fall, urged the Law School to change the seal. It arose from decisions in some southern states to remove the Confederate battle flag from certain public venues because of its use by those opposed to equal rights for Blacks in  since the 1960s.

The three wheat sheaves ("garbs") are the arms of Isaac Royall, Jr. as found on a baptismal basin donated by him to St. Michael’s Church in Bristol, Rhode Island; on his bookplate; on a two-handled cup in the possession of the First [Congregational] Church of Medford, Massachusett; and on the tomb of Isaac Royall and his father, William Royall, in Dorchester, Massachusetts (Bolton’s American Armory, Charles Knowles Bolton, The F.W. Faxon Company, Boston, 1927, pp. 142-143). [Bolton’s work, which heraldic scholars have noted has many errors in it, is the only work in which Annear found these arms.] The Royall family owned slaves on a plantation in Antigua and Barbuda as well as their house in Medford. 

After a months-long deliberative process, a Law School committee recommended in March 2016 that Harvard change the seal. Later that month, the Corporation—the University’s highest governing body— accepted the proposal to remove the Royall badges [incorrectly called "crests," which are the adornments above the helmet in a full achievement of a coat of arms] from the Law School’s official seal. At the time, Law School spokesperson Robb London told The Crimson the school would select a new seal by 2017, in time for the school’s bicentennial celebration.

Two years later, a Crimson article by Aidan F. Ryan ( Twitter @AidanRyanNH) reported on the status of the removal. 

At the end of that celebrationbut the school remained seal-less. In an interview in 2018, Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 said administrators have focused on the school’s capital campaign and the bicentennial and will adopt a new seal later. “It’s been a very busy year,” Manning said. “We want to think about what is a fair and effective process for identifying a new seal.”

Tthe Law School worked quickly to remove the Royall badges from campus and from Law School websites. The endeavor was mostly successful, but the seal was still visible at some locations on the Law School campus in 2017. The three wheatsheaves of the Royall coat of arms remained in at least one location on campus—the door of a Harvard-owned property at 10 Mt. Auburn St.

“As soon as the Corporation accepted the recommendation to retire the shield, the School undertook an effort to remove all known instances of it from campus locations, print materials, licensed products and web content," said Matthew Gruber, Dean of Administration. 

Amanda M. Lee, former president of the Law School student government, wrote in an email that the absence of an official seal has not generated much concern among the student body, but some students “had concerns that the diploma might have a blank seal.” Manning confirmed diplomas will bear the University’s “Veritas” seal.

The university in 2021 has meanwhile created an alumni focus group to assist The University's Committee to Articulate Principles Involved in Renaming, chaired by Drew Faust. Here are the Committee's questions in July 2021:

- How do buildings, landmarks, and other named entities factor into your personal experience and sense of belonging at Harvard? Please offer examples.

- What factors and University values are most important to consider when deciding whether to rename an entity on campus? How should we take account of and balance both a namesake’s positive contributions and their failures and flaws? How do we understand these in light of the era in which the namesake lived? In light of the era in which a name was bestowed?

- How should we ensure that renaming does not result in erasing past history? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of removing a name versus contextualizing the history of the namesake? What factors would you consider in determining whether to do one or the other?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

ORIEL COLLEGE | Rhodes Statue to Stay

Cecil Rhodes statue at Oriel
College, Oxford.
May 20, 2021—Oriel College will be celebrating its seven-hundredth anniversary in 2026. That may have given the College's administration a Long View of current issues, notably its decision announced today about the "Rhodes Must Fall" campaign.

The current Provost of Oriel College, since 2018, is Baron Neil Mendoza, an entrepreneur and publisher. Last year he created an independent commission to study the Rhodes Must Fall issues, for example the actions of Rhodes during his lifetime and his posthumous legacy. Its report supports a recommendation to remove the Rhodes statue—most of its members favored relocatitue—but notes that the final decision is up to the Oriel fellows, who constitute the governing board of the college.

This morning, Oriel's governing board announced Rhodes won’t fall, but that the other recommendations by the independent commission will be adopted. The board notes that most of its submissions supported keeping the statue in place.

The Rhodes Must Fall campaign has been active for at least five years (see Oxford College Arms, 4th ed., p. 63).  It reached a climax in June 2020, when the Black Lives Matter campaigns added fuel to the anti-Rhodes protests. Cecil Rhodes was an alumnus of Oriel College and in 1902 left a substantial sum to endow the college. During his life he created the "Cape to Cairo" component of the British empire from the southern Cape of Good hope through Rhodesia and East Africa to Egypt. His methods ranged from brilliant enterprise to brutal force. (As Shashi Tharoor quoted an "Indian nationalist" as saying, in An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India, “The sun never set on the British empire, because even God couldn’t trust the Englishman in the dark.”)

The previous Provost of Oriel College was Moira Wallace, OBE, former British civil servant and first Permanent Secretary of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. She was the first female Provost of Oriel. When the Rhodes Must Fall campaign hit Oriel in 2016, she favored open discussion of relocating the statue. The Oxbridge Pursuivant reported on this at the time:

The governing body of Oriel at the time expressed its wish to remove the statue from the college. One suggestion was to move it to a museum where it might comply with historic preservation laws and at the same time satisfy those who consider Rhodes an evil thug by adding an exhibit showing where Rhodes deserves praise and where not. 

A group of alumni donors reacted to the news of the governing body's views by writing that they would end regular giving or pledges to Oriel College if it removed the statue. The total impact on the college was estimated at approximately £100 million. Other alumni said they would make up the loss if the statue went, but so far no escrow account appears to have been created for this purpose.

Oriel reports that it is not beginning the legal process for relocating the statue because of the high cost of doing so in light of historic preservation laws (at a difficult time for  most of the colleges because of Brexit and Covid-19). However, many of the commission's recommendations will be followed.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

OXONIANS | Top Posts in the Biden Administration

Three of President Biden’s twenty-four cabinet-level appointees are Oxonians—Gina Raimondo, Pete Buttigieg and Eric Lander.

Dr. Gina Raimondo (New College, 1993) was the first woman to be Governor of Rhode Island. She has been confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Commerce. Dr Raimondo completed a DPhil in Sociology; her thesis was on single motherhood in the United States.

Pete Buttigieg (Pembroke, 2005) was elected Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He won fame as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. He is confirmed as the new Secretary of Transportation. At Oxford, he read PPE.

Professor Eric Lander (Wolfson, 1978), will be leading the newly created US Office of Science and Technology Policy. A Professor of Biology at MIT and of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, at Oxford he wrote a DPhil on algebraic coding theory. He has made landmark contributions to the sequencing of the human genome. He was  a senior science advisor to President Obama, ensuring proper use of scientific evidence in criminal justice.

Other Oxford alumni in high-ranking positions in the Biden administration include:

  • Dr. William J. Burns (St John’s, 1981) is the incoming Director of the CIA.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (Balliol, 1981) is the new Homeland Security Advisor.
  • Jake Sullivan (Magdalen, 1998) is the National Security Advisor.
  • Jonathan Finer (Balliol, 1999) is the Deputy National Security Advisor.
  • Dr. Susan Rice (New College, 1996), the former National Security Advisor, will lead the Domestic Policy Council.
  • Dr. Kurt M. Campbell (Brasenose, 1981) will be Coordinator of Indo-Pacific affairs.
  • Bruce Reed (Lincoln, 1982) will serve as White House Deputy Chief of Staff.
  • Megan Ceronsky (Hertford, 2001), the climate change advisor for the Obama administration, will take up a role in the Office of White House Counsel.
  • Machmud Makhmudov (Magdalen, 2016) completed an MPhil in Political Theory in 2018 and is serving as a Policy Advisor for the Office of COVID Response. He supported the Biden campaign as a Policy Analyst.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

COAT OF ARMS | Reuben College, Oxford's 39th

Reuben College Coat of Arms, Granted 2021
March 3, 2021—The coat of arms for Reuben College at left was drawn by heraldic artist Lee Lumbley based on the blazon recently approved by the Kings of Arms on behalf of Reuben College, Oxford, which is the 39th college at Oxford. Before the Reuben family made a major gift to the college, it was named "Parks College" after Parks Road.

Arms, Blazon. Argent in pale two Annulets and in base two Ermine Spots in fess Azure all between two Flaunches Vert each charged with an Ermine Spot Or.

Arms, Origin. Although Henry VIII gave a dispensation to Oxford and Cambridge entities from the requirement that they register with (obtain a grant from) the College of Arms, many colleges have obtained their grants from the College of Arms anyway. The coat of arms was designed by College of Arms heralds. A grant of arms has been given to Reuben College in 2021. (Since the College of Arms is self-supporting, the College paid a fee for the design.)

Arms, Meaning. The meaning of the Ermine Spots and the Annulets is binary code. The Spot is a "1" and an Annulet is a "0"—so the code reads 100111, which indicates the number 39, for the 39th college. 

This coat of arms for Reuben College will be included alphabetically in the 5th edition (pub. date September 20, 2019) of Oxford College Arms, immediately ahead of the colleges beginning with the letter "S". Meanwhile, the 4th edition is available now.

Monday, February 8, 2021

UNIV | Sean Denniston Speaks at NYC Ox-Cam Virtual Dinner

Under the title "Oxbridge goes to Washington," University College ("Univ"), Oxford , posted the following report on the participation of Sean Denniston in the 2020 (88th) New York City Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Dinner.

Washington DC
The Road to Washington

Sean C Denniston (1987, History), Transportation Industry Analyst at Federal Aviation Administration, was the dinner speaker at the 88th Annual New York Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race Dinner on 27 December 2020. The dinner was held virtually because of COVID-19, but its taking place continued an 88-year unbroken streak.

Sean Denniston

Sean Denniston (1987, History)

Mr Denniston’s remarks were titled “Oxbridge goes to Washington (again and again) Trump, Biden, Oxbridge and the District of Columbia”. He is President of the Oxford University Alumni Networkof Washington D.C. and an integral part of the East Coast American Univite network.

After studying History at Univ, Sean Denniston obtained a JD from Boston College Law School and Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution from the University of Massachusetts Boston. He previously worked as a consultant at Isaacson, Miller and as Special Assistant to the Director of External Affairs, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).


Monday, January 18, 2021

DEATH | Ved Mehta, January 9, 2021

January 19, 2021—In the Sunday New York Times appeared the obituary of Ved Mehta, who died a week earlier.

I have posted it at left. Born in Lahore in the Punjab, he studied in the United States.

The New Yorker death notice of January 10 reports that he  asked David Astor, editor of the Observer, about writing for them a very long series of articles about traveling in India. He suggested the only likely place to publish something that long ("and boring") was the New Yorker magazine.

Mehta became a contributing writer for the New Yorker and made New York his home.

He wrote about his early days in India as a boy made blind by meningitis, about learning Braille, riding a bike and a horse, and his experiences as a student.

He wrote a three-volume life of Mahatma Gandhi and profiles of Oxford dons, a book about William Shawn of The New Yorker and political rivalries in India, among many topics.

I got know him and his wife Linn Cary Mehta through their loyal participation in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race Dinner in New York City over many years.

The Times obituary is followed by an appreciation by his friends Dan and Joanna Rose, who have also been regular participants in the New York City Boat Race Dinner.

When Ved Mehta spoke about his residence at Oxford, Balliol College, he expressed his respect and affection. He was not so keen on Trinity College, on the other side of the wall, but he didn't seem to hold it against me. His presence at future Oxford events will be missed.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Peter Millican's Thousand Years of Oxford Plagues

Peter Millican (1958-),
Hertford College,
Peter Millican tolls a thousand years

Of Oxford plagues, and even older tears.

The sweep of his tragedies makes me a fan.

I can’t tell you this tale of woes. But Millican.