The University of Leuven is being urged to remove a Leopold II bust from its library halls, in calls that come amid a wave of national and global support for the removal of monuments of “colonial propaganda.”
In an open letter addressed to University Dean Luc Sels, fifty signatories said the university must take a “pioneering role” in tackling structural racism and urged it to take the first step by pulling down the bust.
“This includes condemning colonial propaganda, combating racism and making room for debate. The first step would be to remove the bust of Leopold II from the university library,” the signatories wrote, De Morgen reports.
Several teaching staff and lecturers figure among the signatories of the letter, alongside dozens of anti-racist groups and Flemish liberal MP Sihame El Kaouakibi.
A press officer for the KU Leuven, the only Belgian university in the world’s top 100, said on the phone that they were aware of the letter but said she could not immediately provide any comment.
Calls to remove the bust come just a day after a statue of the former colonial king was pulled down in Antwerp, drawing global attention as anti-racism protests pick up steam across the world.
Several petitions to remove monuments to the colonial king have been signed by thousands, with one targeting the statues in Brussels gathering over 60,000 signatures.
The push by antiracism activists has prodded some response from authorities. On Tuesday, Brussels Secretary of State, Pascal Smet, signalled that he would be willing to remove the statues in the capital city.
Education ministers in Belgium also said that an ongoing reform of the education programs would tackle colonialism on both Dutch-speaking and French-speaking schools.
“Most of our students do not hear about Belgian colonisation in the Congo or the exploitation and domination mechanisms used,” Francophone education minister Caroline Désir said in a video statement.