A top UK university is to replace portraits of its founding fathers with a “wall of diversity” of scholars from different backgrounds following pressure from students.
Kings College London is planning to remove the portraits of former university staff from the main entrance wall and replace them with BME (Black and minority ethnic) scholars.
The proposal to exclude white scholars from the entrance wall follows criticism from students who claimed that the presence of such portraits is too “intimidating” for minorities, The Telegraph reported.
Professor Patrick Leman, who unveiled the plans, said that the university should swap “busts of 1920s bearded men” with more diverse scholars to ensure the institution feels less “alienating”.
Leman’s remarks about “bearded men” are thought to refer to two founders of Kings College London – Dr Henry Maudsley and neurologist Sir Frederick Mott – whose busts are placed in the university to recognize their work.
Leman added that portraits near the main entrance feature “almost entirely white middle-aged men” and will be replaced with a “wall of diversity”.
Portraits of former deans, meanwhile, would be “taken down” from their prominent position near the entrance and later rehung in less visible places around the university.
As well as targeting busts and portraits, teaching materials like diagrams of the human anatomy will also be changed to show a “range of ethnic groups” and not just the “standard white male”.
The professor claimed his changes are backed by the student union that has been, according to him, “exceptionally good” in pushing for a diversified curriculum.
He said: “We’re trying to reflect the diversity in terms of students we have, but also trying to be more inter-cultural, more international in terms of how we develop the science.
“A great deal of medical, psychological research has been of white, male, North American or European students…so increasingly we try and broaden it to include more recent research from Asia, Africa, and from other parts of the world.
“[We are] making sure that the space in which students learn… doesn’t just have the busts of the bearded 1920s men, but also has pictures of people from different ethnic groups, different cultures. It’s not that we’re throwing anything into the bin.”