The tweet by Emily Dawes sparked backlash.
The tweet by Emily Dawes sparked backlash.

Horror after uni student’s sick ‘white men’ vow

A LEFT-WING student union president in the UK has sparked outrage by vowing to deface a mural commemorating the fallen World War One heroes as they are "white men".

Emily Dawes, president of Southampton University Student Union, threatened to paint over the uni's Rothenstein Mural, which depicts students who died during the Great War collecting degrees that they didn't get to finish.

"Mark my words - we're taking down the mural of white men in the Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself," she tweeted.

Many were outraged at Ms Dawes' pledge, which came on the centenary of the end of WW1 and the day before the Royal British Legion launched its Remembrance Day Poppy Appeal today.

"The white men who died so you can spout such hateful nonsense?" one person replied. "You're a f***ing disgrace and should be kicked out of any state education system. A state created by hard working brave people: most of whom were the white men you profess to despise."


Emily Dawes. Picture: Facebook
Emily Dawes. Picture: Facebook


Another said, "Is this the mural to those heroic students from the university that had to forego their studies in order to fight for the freedom of Europe in WW1, and never got to graduate?

I'm trying to think of a reason why anyone would actively want to deface a war memorial …"

Another added, "Jesus. Are all students left-wing morons? Only academia could protest a painting that depicts men lost at war protecting the freedoms you take for granted. It's of days gone not present day. You cant rewrite history even though you lot want to. Grow up. Pathetic."

One said, "What's she studying, clearly not history. Why can't people accept you can't change history. These young men went to far a war against tyranny. Her words are not far off that! Do this or else."

Others fumed that to even want to personally vandalise the mural was "disrespectful" and a "disgrace". "One of the most insensitive and disrespectful comments I have ever seen," one person said. "Time for reflection, time for remembrance of what they gave for our freedom. Never forget #Remembrance #LestWeForget."


The Rothenstein Mural. Picture: Supplied
The Rothenstein Mural. Picture: Supplied


She later apologised for the suggestion.
She later apologised for the suggestion.


Another added, "I hope you start, and immediately get arrested. What a disgrace you are to students everywhere, putting your ignorance on such prominent display."

A few tweeted to the university to bring Dawes' tweet to their attention.

"I really hope you won't allow that mural to be defaced and painted over?" one said. "Those young men were sent to war and unfortunately a lot didn't come back to be able to complete their studies! But they gave their lives which means students today can study freely."

Another added, "I have just tweeted @unisouthampton to ask if they will do anything. To talk of those young boys from their uni who died in this way is a disgrace."

One said Ms Dawes was going about it "the wrong way".

"If there are black people forgotten you'd have mine (and most people's) support to include them. We should represent everyone equally. By suggesting the memorial of men who died to protect your freedoms is racist says more about you."

Dawes finally issued a grovelling apology one day after her original tweet and two hours after The Sun Online published its story.

"Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused with what I have said. I never meant the disrespect to anyone past, present and future. I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection realised how inappropriate it was," she said.

"My intention was to promote strong, female leader and not the eradication and disrespect of history. I do not believe that to make progress in the future, we should look to erase the past. Once again, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused."

Ms Dawes was the president of the university's Feminist Society before she was elected to current position in the student union.

During her election campaign she called for the Vice Chancellor Christopher Snowden to take a pay cut so that university societies such as her own FemSoc could receive more funding.

The Londoner is currently on a sabbatical from her astrophysics degree.

Southampton University Student Union today apologised for its President's remarks and has urged her to explain her actions.

"We apologise for the recent statement from our President regarding the Rothenstein Mural and any upset this may have caused," it said.

"This is 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. We have reached out to our President to ask for a statement to be released."

A University of Southampton spokesperson 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)."

Southampton MP Royston Smith tweeted, "I am proud to live in a country where people voluntarily sacrificed their lives for the freedom that allows people to make ill thought out, insensitive comments such as these. I assume she will reflect and apologise."

Scottish UKIP MEP David Coburn tweeted, "If she vandalises that mural I'll bring in restorers and get it revealed again."

This outburst came as Cambridge University Students' Union tried to scrap the mention of poppies in the university's plans for Remembrance Day.

In an initial poll, 30 of 31 representatives voted to remove the mention of poppies and "British war veterans". The motion was debated and eventually defeated.


The Rothenstein Mural was painted in 1916 and depicts a graduation ceremony with students getting their degree.

It represents the university students who went to fight in World War I and died before being able to collect their degrees.

The idea came to Sir William Rothenstein when he saw the "sight of a number of youths, booted and spurred, with their gowns over their khaki, kneeling before the Chancellor to receive their degrees" in Oxford.

The mural is in the Senate Room in the heart of Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton.


This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission.