This is the Southampton Students’ Union President who sparked outrage by saying a mural in memory of First World War soldiers should be ‘painted over’ because it displays only ‘white men’.
Emily Dawes, whose family live in Virginia in the US, attended the £5,000-a-term Northwood College for Girls in north London before starting a physics degree.
Pictures on her Facebook account show her campaigning outside Westminster to ‘stop bombing Syria,’ camping on the street overnight to raise money for the homeless, and participating in a so-called ‘SlutWalk’ to raise awareness of violence against women.
Ms Dawes earns at least £20,000 a year for her role as Union president for which she has taken a year out from her studies.
She boasted about her ‘extra as heck’ manifesto when she for the role and campaigned for unisex toilets, sexual consent training and ‘social media accessible to multiple cultures’.
Ms Dawes was previously president of the university’s Feminist Society and says her favourite thing about Southampton is the ‘pretty dope’ vegan food.
Emily Dawes, pictured dancing, the controversial Twitter post was not the only tweet she aimed at the memorial
Pictures on Miss Dawes’ Facebook account show her campaigning outside Westminster to ‘stop bombing Syria’
Pictures on her Facebook account show her camping on the street overnight to raise money for the homeless
The physics student, pictured smiling at the Students Union, who was previously president of the university’s Feminist Society, says her favourite thing about Southampton is the ‘pretty dope’ vegan food
Emily Dawes, pictured left posing for her photograph as University of Southampton Students Union, and far right on holiday, provoked outrage when she referred to the university’s Rotherstein Mural as a ‘mural of white men’
Ms Dawes, pictured left at the Students Union, and right, clutching a board of food, is one of eight sabbatical officers who represents students at the university
Her comments refer to this mural, which depicts an unknown soldier from the First World War being awarded a degree. Local history enthusiasts have asked that it not be damaged
Ms Dawes has previously written a blog about her battle with anxiety and depression, it said: ‘So as some of you will know, I live my life alongside some fun diagnoses: generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and clinical depression.
‘They’re not always as dramatic as my brain perceives them to be, but they do infiltrate my day to day existence and can sometimes make it difficult to do the bare minimum.
‘I struggle to maintain healthy relationships with friends, partners, colleagues, food, sleep, alcohol, drugs, personal hygiene, control, emotions, self worth and self care.
‘Some days I am ready to save the world and push past any obstacle in my way.’
Today Ms Dawes provoked outrage when she referred to the university’s Rotherstein Mural as a ‘mural of white men’ and called for it to be taken down.
She tweeted: ‘Mark my words – we’re taking down the mural of white men in the uni Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself.’
Both she and the students’ union have since apologised for her comments after she was accused of abusing the free speech the soldiers fought and died to protect.
The University of Southampton Students’ Union President Emily Dawes has provoked anger with this tweet threatening to paint over a First World War memorial
She also posted this tweet, suggesting she understood the significance of the mural
The Rothenstein Mural was painted in 1916 ‘as a memorial to members of the British universities serving in the Great War’.
‘It depicts an academic procession and the conferring of a degree on an unknown soldier,’ according to the university.
What is the Rothenstein Mural in Southampton?
The Rothenstein Mural was painted in 1916 by Sir William Rothenstein, former principal of the Royal College of Art.
It shows a procession of academics and the conferring of a degree on an ‘unknown soldier’ undergraduate by the then Chancellor of Cambridge University.
It was presented to the Southampton in 1959 by the artist’s son and features many noted academics from the time, including Vice-Chancellors and Chancellors, and the then-Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
The mural was installed in the Senate Room in in 2014 as part of a commemoration of the centenary of the start of the war.
Lucy Carter, the granddaughter of mural artist Sir William Rothenstein, said of Ms Dawes’s comments: ‘I think it’s very sad, people trying to change history.
‘It’s sad that people should be overtaken by these concerns. Painting over it would be unnecessary.’
Southampton MP Royston Smith, who served in the RAF for ten years, said the SU president’s tweet was ‘disappointing’ considering the soldiers were defending the free speech which she was exercising.
He said: ‘With freedom comes responsibility, and considering the President of the SU holds a position of authority she has clearly overstepped the mark.
‘I hope she will reflect on what she has said and realise it has been conducted in poor taste. Those who know the history of our island are fully aware and appreciate the involvement of black and Asian soldiers against tyranny.’
The university’s Conservative Association called for Ms Dawes to face disciplinary action and said the mural should be protected from potential vandalism.
After she was criticised today, Ms Dawes released a statement saying: ‘Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologise for the offense and upset I have caused with what I have said.
Her comments have provoked anger from many in the city, who pointed out the bravery of those who fought and died in the First World War
What was in Emily Dawes’s manifesto?
- Sexual assault/consent awareness through education, campaigns and staff training
- A more streamlined and efficient online feedback system to sabs (sabattical officers)
- Replace plastic on campus with eco-friendly, affordable options
- Comprehesive resources for mental and physical illnesses/disabilities/
- Alternative career fayres (not just ‘big name’ companies)
‘I never meant to the disrespect to anyone past, present and future.
‘I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was.
‘My intention was to promote strong, female leadership and not the eradication and disrespect of history. I do not believe that to make progress in the future, we should look to raise the past.’
The controversial Twitter post was not the only tweet she aimed at the memorial.
She had earlier tweeted a picture of the wall, with the expletive-ridden message: ‘ONE OF THE WOMEN JUST SAID ‘it’s nearly armistice day so are we covering up this tapestry??’ AND HOLY S***. F*** YES. GRL PWR #sotonsenatelive’.
A spokesman for the student union said: ‘We apologise for the recent statement from our President regarding the Rotherstein Mural and any upset this may have caused.
Some have supported her views, saying the mural ‘reinforces white middle class stereotypes’
The university says it is proud of the mural, which shows an ‘unknown soldier’ getting a degree
It was presented to the university by the son of its artist, Sir William Rothenstein, in 1959 and appears on the wall of the university’s senate room in this building on campus.
‘This [was] a personal view and not that of the Union. We do not believe the statement was said to cause upset or disrespect to anyone and does not follow our mission or values.’
A spokesman for the University of Southampton said: ‘The comments made by the Students’ Union President regarding the Rothenstein Mural are not shared by the University of Southampton and do not represent the views of the University community.
‘We are very proud to display the Mural, painted in 1916, which serves as a memorial to all members of British universities who served in the Great War (World War I).’
Universities caught up in ‘politically correct’ rows over the past
The row over the First World War mural is just the latest to hit Britain’s university campuses.
Oxford University has seen protests over its statue of Victorian mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, which some students believe is racist due to Rhodes’s links to the slave trade.
In July, students painted over Rudyard Kipling’s popular ‘If’ poem after it was put up to inspire those attending Manchester University.
Activists said writer Kipling was racist and replaced his work with ‘Still I Rise’ by American poet Maya Angelou.
Earlier this month, Cambridge University Students Union were criticised after considering crossing out the phrases ‘British war veterans’ and ‘Poppies’ from Remembrance Day plans.
Students in Oxford call for a statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed in 2016
The union insisted the move was designed to ‘broaden the focus to include those who suffered and died wherever they were in the world’.
Last year, professor Nigel Biggar came under fire after he said society should take a more balanced view of the Empire rather than simply remembering it with shame.
He acknowledged ‘atrocities’ had occurred under colonial rule, but said it had also provided law and order in other countries that many citizens had valued.
But student campaigners at Oxford called his article ‘racist’ and claimed it ‘whitewashed’ the British Empire.