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Pecunia non olet

Trafigura founder Graham Sharp\’s £3m gift to Oxford university causes anger

Donation linked to scandal-hit oil trading company should be rejected, say Oxford students and teaching staff


Cash the cheque and use it to educate people. It\’s the education that counts, not where the money came from.

Adam Bouyamourn, a second-year politics, philosophy and economics student at Worcester College, said: \”Surely it is socially, if not globally, irresponsible to provide this tacit endorsement of Trafigura\’s business practices?\”

For example, a philosophy student should know that the correct answer to any question which begins \”surely\” is \”no\”. An economics student should know that the source of funding is irrelevant, it\’s the use to which it will be put that is important. And a politics student should already know that posturing, while being the very essence of politics, does require not checking the dentures of gift horses too closely.

So, yes, there are things which can usefully be done with more cash at Oxford: like teaching second years some politics, philosophy and economics.

9 thoughts on “Pecunia non olet”

  1. “Surely it is socially, if not globally, irresponsible to provide this tacit endorsement of Trafigura’s business practices?”

    How can something such as accepting a donation be “globally irresponsible”?

  2. The Salvation Army (renowned anti-alcohol campaigners) used to solicit donations in pubs – when asked about the ethics of opposing drinking, but taking drinkers money, they use to reply ‘We will take your dirty money, and make it clean!’

  3. I still relish being lectured by the King Alfonso 13th Professor of Spanish and reading books in a library enabled by donations from Sir Basil Zaharoff the arms’ dealer’s arms’ dealer.

  4. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    So someone studying for a degree in being a worthless parasite has the opinion that his degree can best be funded by sponging off the taxpayer?

    Well I’m damned.

  5. Tim,

    Not a good headline. Suetonius, from whom it originates, remarked that Vespasian, to whom he attributed it, was easily the most avaricious of ‘The Twelve Caesars’. Using it outside of the context of Flavian avarice might be considered by some to be taking the piss.

  6. “Certainly there was something both evil and imposing about his figure: and as he grew older, the shell hardened and grew more typical. His personal appearance should have put all with whom he came into contact on their guard – it is, indeed, singular that western man, while refusing to place credence in anything that he cannot see, while rejecting absolutely omens, prophecies and visions, should at the same time, as he often does, deny the evidence of his own eyes. This armament-monger most exactly resembled a vulture, and it is no good pretending, in order to avoid the obvious parallel, that he did not. To some it may cause some surprise that a man who traded in weapons of death and the prospects of war, and grew fat-bodied on the result of them, should have resembled the scaly-necked bird; but whether or no it seems strange, depends on one’s view on the world, and of the immense and startling range of analogy, simile and image that it offers. There, in any case, the likeness was, for all to behold: the beaky face, the hooded eye, the wrinkled neck, the full body, the impression of physical power and of the capacity to wait, the sombre alertness…’

    Osbert Sitwell on Sir Basil Zaharoff, ‘The Vulture’, July 1914.

    Basil Zaharoff (Basileios Zacharias) was appointed Knight Grand Commander Of The Order Of The Bath after WW1. Makes you proud to be British.

  7. “Benefactions, nicely placed, preceded these honors — a chair of French literature named for Marshal Foch at Oxford, a chair of English literature named for Marshal Haig at the Sorbonne. And, of course, Oxford made him a doctor of civil law, though his specialty was the highly uncivil law of war. He gave 200,000 francs to enable the French athletes to participate in the Antwerp Olympics, endowed the Prix de Balzac — a literary prize — established the Pasteur Institute in Athens, and put 25,000 pounds at the disposal of the clinic for poor children there, provided a becoming Greek legation building in Paris, and showed some other evidences of an interest in his native Greece. These benefactions need not be exaggerated. A twenty-five-thousand-pound contribution by a man into whose pockets countless millions are rolling is no more than a dollar bill that the ordinary Christian tosses into the plate on Sunday or the ten-dollar donation to the Salvation Army at Christmas. The good Sir Basil (Zaharoff) never pinched himself or denied himself anything to aid any cause. On the contrary, most of his gifts were investments in good will when good will was sorely needed” –

    John T. Flynn, ‘The Merchant of Death’.

  8. I don’t think what Adam said was ridiculous.
    I think, as an educated man, that you should; respect, analyse, relate(to) and criticise his opinion.

    Instead you’ve senselessly mocked and insulted him in the most cowardly way imaginable.

    I think you should say it to his face.

    Tim adds: Lessee…..I live in another country, some thousands of miles away. So “to his face” is going to be tough. Further, I’ve not “senselessly” done anything: I have simply analysed and critiqued his opinion. Finally, putting such a critique up on this new social media stuff, with my own name appended, is hardly “cowardly”.

    Oh, and another thing. I am under no duty whatsoever to either respect or relate to the opinions of anyone at all.

  9. Pingback: In praise of… Tony Blair

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