Cherwell

University to re-display removed Theresa May portrait

Handwritten notes protesting the decision to hang the portrait in May.

A portrait of Prime Minister Theresa May has been removed from the walls of the University’s School of Geography and the Environment.

The portrait was put up last week as part of a celebration of the department’s female alumnae.

However, after pressure from students, the portrait was taken down last night.

The University has said that the portrait was taken down because it “was being obscured by posters bearing various messages.” According to the statement, the portrait “will be re-displayed so it can be seen as intended.”

A Twitter account called ‘NotAllGeographers’ had been set up to protest the portrait.

May, who graduated with a second-class degree from St Hugh’s in 1977, was originally one of twelve alumnae to feature prominently as part of the new display, which aimed to “aim to inspire the next generation of women geographers to aim high in their future careers.

The portraits were nominated by current and former members of the department.

The School’s Equality and Diversity Officer, Claire Hann, who came up with the idea for the display, said: “The aim is to show that the achievements of the few selected women represent and are linked with the achievements of a much wider group of women geographers.

“We’re keen to celebrate the successes of our women students and staff as much as those of men. It’s been great to reconnect with many of our past students through this project, and we hope it will inspire our current students as they pass by the display each day.”

But ‘NotAllGeographers’ took issue with May’s inclusion.

The group, whose name builds upon a hashtag used during the recent UCU strikes distancing current students from the vice chancellors who also studied geography, told Cherwell“We are rightly proud of…the celebration of SoGE alumnae.

“However, there was no consultation (at least with students) about the placing of Theresa May as one of the selected twelve larger portraits to celebrate women and Oxford geography (or the selection of photos for the wall).

“Clearly at a time when there are issues with the Windrush scandal and the handling of Brexit [she is] a contentious figure in a department with many EU citizens and decolonial scholars.

“The main, and most basic, issue comes with the celebration of a sitting Prime Minister. Should a department align itself with the power of the day, when there are those who actively challenge it?

“It is unprecedented to celebrate state power in such a way (regardless of one’s political affiliation).

“For many geographers, the famous Doreen Massey being placed below her is also another kick in the teeth.”

The group had planned to circulate a petition demanding the portrait’s removal.

‘NotAllGeographers’ also stuck up card around the portrait, and invited students to share their thoughts.

One student wrote: “School of Geography and (Hostile????) Environment” [sic], while another message said: “Let in every refugee, throw the Tories in the sea.”

In response, a counter-campaign took off, under the moniker #PutThePortraitBack.

The School of Geography and Environment and Theresa May have been contacted for comment.