The Oxford student who made the motion to remove an ‘unwelcoming’ portrait of the queen from the Magdalen College common room is a privately educated American graduate who went to school with Barack Obama’s daughter, it can be revealed today. Matthew Katzman is a computer science professor and son of a prominent lawyer at the international firm Steptoe & Johnson. His family lives in a £ 4 million mansion in Washington DC, where he attended Sidwell Friends School, a historic $ 48,000-a-year private Quaker college. He likely counted 22-year-old Malia Obama as a contemporary at the elite institution, whose other alumni include Nancy Reagan, President Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, Joe Biden’s grandchildren during his vice presidency, and the offspring of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt. and Richard Nixon.
The 25-year-old advanced the measure to ‘cancel’ the Queen in her role as president of the Magdalen Middle Common Room (MCR), which is made up of graduates. Before Oxford, where he is studying for a PhD in “complexity theory”, he earned a BA in mathematics and an MA in theoretical computer science from Stanford. In an online biography, Katzman lists his non-academic interests as CrossFit, poker, board games, playing the trumpet, and Spartan Races, a popular long-distance obstacle course series. The move sparked a huge backlash today, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson calling it “absurd” and Oxford University Chancellor Lord Patten condemning students for being “offensive and obnoxiously ignorant.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this afternoon that he backed Williamson’s criticism, and a spokesman for No. 10 said: “He has had the words of the Secretary of Education, which the Prime Minister supports.”
MCR members agreed to remove the Queen’s photographic print by a substantial majority after deciding that it was’ unwelcoming ‘because the monarch represents’ recent colonial history’, and one student commented that ‘patriotism and colonialism are not really separable ‘.
The committee will now explore replacing the portrait with ‘art by or from other influential and inspiring people’ and will put any future depictions of the Royal Family to a vote, according to committee minutes that have not been made public.
Oxford, like all public universities, benefits from large amounts of taxpayer money to fund research, eight percent (£ 196 million) in the form of direct grants from England’s Office for Students and Research and 16% (£ 392 million) from tuition fees. many of which are backed by government loans.
The dispute comes amid growing concern over rising intolerance and the ‘cancellation culture’ in British universities, which ministers have pledged to address. However, Katzman, son of 65-year-old business attorney Scott Katzman, claimed the move did not “ amount to a statement about the Queen, ” but said the painting was being removed to create “ a welcoming and neutral place. for all members regardless of background, demographics or views. ‘ Magdalen, whose alumni include CS Lewis and Oscar Wilde, has indicated that she will not attempt to reverse the decision, despite her long association with royalty. This includes visits from the Queen in 1948 to receive an honorary degree and again in 2008 to mark the 550th anniversary of the university.