Concerned professors inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement believe Oxford University’s current curriculum is too complicit in white supremacy, and have recently suggested changes be made so that courses can be more focused on broadening musical teachings to students.
Some of the suggested changes include removing sheet music and refocusing classical art away from European composers, such as Beethoven and Mozart.
Staff members feel that the historical program is too focused on “white European music from the slave period,” and can be considered a “slap in the face” to some students as a result of its “connection to its colonial past,” according to internal documents cited by The Telegraph.
The board also wishes to address the use of musical notations, which professors say promote “white hegemony,” and can cause “students of color great distress.” Oxford officials have also described musical notation as a “colonialist representational system.”
In response to the reports, many netizens online lashed out against efforts and remarks made by instructors associated with the university.
— Mercy Muroki (@MercyMuroki) March 28, 2021
— David Kurten (@davidkurten) March 28, 2021
— J. Xavier de Basto (@jxbasto) March 28, 2021
— Soylent John 📀 (@SoylentJohn) March 28, 2021
The prestigious university, which offers non-Eurocentric music studies ranging from African and African Diasporic Musics to more modern day Global Musics, has sought multiple ways to reform its campus of damaging colonial references. Earlier this year, Oxford’s All Soul College removed Christopher Codrington, a Barbados-born slave owner, from its library name, where his memorialized statue still stands.
The University of Oxford is not the only institution to bring about suggestions related to progressive changes to historical arts. Recently, works by Dr. Seuss and Dav Pilkey, who authored a “Captain Underpants” spin-off book in 2010, have come under fire over racial imagery and the promotion of harmful racial stereotypes.
The reformation of Oxford’s curriculum has yet to be finalized, with some faculty members arguing it would be unfair to accuse professors who teach music predating 1900 of being concerned with music solely composed by white musicians. Additionally, critics believe that continued study of the works can add to ongoing debate over the ethnicity of some of the most prominent European composers.