By Micaela Stewart
Pride Week has become a recognized event at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in recent years.
This year’s event involved some extra trimmings to show support for the campus’ LGBTQ+ students; the most notable was the raising of a Pride flag on the flagpole outside of the bookstore.
The Pride week event staff wanted to utilize this unused flagpole, so they approached Chancellor Ayers with the idea to designate this flagpole for student organizations to post their colors.
Chancellor Ayers approved of this change in policy and on Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Pride flag was raised to signify the beginning of the Pride Week events.
The next day, Wed. Oct. 26 there was a noticeable addition to the flagpole.
Someone in the night had decided to add an American flag to the pole above the Pride flag.
This act was against the agreement made between the Pride committee and Embry-Riddle, therefore, Safety took down the American flag and reposted the Pride flag.
Responses following the lowering of the American Flag from this flagpole were unexpectedly charged. Safety held on to the flag and treated it with proper respect.
The persons responsible for this act came forward to Safety and expressed their reasoning for adding the American flag to the flagpole. They were under the impression that the Pride flag was flying higher than the American Flag based on its positioning on campus and felt it was their duty to be sure that the Flag Code was followed.
Erik Steele, a student who participated in the Let’s Do Lunch discussion regarding this event, said “I don’t believe the person who did it was doing it out of disrespect, but they should have gone through the proper channels.”
However due to their clandestine actions it was in violation of the new designation that the University had bestowed on this particular flagpole leading to the American flag being removed.
Dr. Ayers said in an interview that the school was still showing support through the flags at the front gate and that the flagpole in question was not a lighted flag pole and had not been used consistently to fly a flag for many years.
Therefore, when he was approached by a student group to use it he felt it was a good idea to designate this unused space for use by student organizations when they have events.
He expressed that “real diversity is where everyone is celebrated” and that “the university really cares about each and every one of [their] students in favor of supporting each other.”
Unfortunately this explanation did not seem to be the end of this silent struggle.
The morning of Thurs. Oct 27 showed that the Pride flag had been stolen and replaced with an American flag of a lesser quality from the first flag added to the pole.
The stolen Pride flag was a gift from a U.S. Marine Veteran and Alumnus of the campus to the Diversity Center and held sentimental value to the students who raised it.
This act put students from the LGBTQ+ community on edge as this action was more aggressive than the previous one.
Safety was again called in to remove the unauthorized flag and the Diversity Center raised a replacement Pride flag emblazoned with the Embry-Riddle seal.
This flag flew through the end of Pride week before being taken down with the closing of the events before the flagpole was again empty and locked until the official policy relating to the use of the pole is reviewed and finalized.
The earlier event may have been done out of misunderstanding, miscommunication and patriotism.
While the other event may have been carried out under a similar vein, the symbolic nature of the act did not lend itself to the idea that all the students are accepted and able to outwardly support their ideals.
This series of events and the discussion that followed it in Let’s Do Lunch opens up the discussion of acceptance and communication between different groups.
College is about learning about and meeting people from all walks of life, but it is also about confronting your own beliefs and determining how you fit in the world.
You may not understand or accept others’ beliefs, but out of respect for your own beliefs and your right to have them, shouldn’t you give others the chance to do the same?
You may find that through learning more about their beliefs and lifestyles you find yourself having a better understanding of your own values and beliefs.
Take the time to listen and learn and then make your decision with all the resources available to you.