On Nov. 25, students got an email from administration saying that the flags in Hirst Lounge may be taken down due to a handful of controversies over the years, most recently regarding the classification of the Hong Kong and Taiwan flags.
Some flags were moved because of a University decision to use the United Nations’ guidelines to select and order them.
We appreciate the administration’s attempt to avoid student conflict, but the flags should not be taken down.
Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, they serve as a visual representation of one of UR’s best strengths: diversity. Students have made clear that they feel more comfortable at a school where they can see representation of themselves and their homes. Tour guides always seem to point out the Hirst Lounge flag display to prospective students and families, so it obviously has been a source of pride for our University.
We understand why we got this email in our inboxes. Administrators had a responsibility to address the controversies in both Hirst Lounge and the painted tunnel. However, we think the better solution is not to lose the display, but for UR to establish its own guidelines.
Although we aren’t in a position to dictate what the guidelines should or should not say (we cannot speak for everyone), why use the guidelines of an outside institution with different values than us?
The UN has its own politically biased reasons for recognizing, or failing to recognize, nations. And anyway, we just aren’t the UN. Why should we emulate its classifications? It doesn’t make its guidelines based on our values, or our community. By blindly accepting the UN list, the University is dodging its responsibility to engage with the student body on a sensitive issue. If a student wants to disagree with the UN on what they call home, why should UR give an outside entity the final call?
And so, we call on the University to take the advice it gives us at every convocation and commencement: refer to our Meliora Vision and Values.
Instead of future discussions on how to replace the flag display, let’s have open forums to gather student input on guidelines for it. Any attempt to curate a flag display that represents the University’s diversity demands that students have the strongest voice.
If UR really takes pride in its diverse student body, then they should let the students choose how they’re represented.
The Editorial Board is a weekly opinions article representing the view of the Campus Times co-written by Editor-in-Chief Wil Aiken, Publisher Shweta Koul, Managing Editor Efua Agyare-Kumi, Opinions Editor Hailie Higgins, and Features Editor An Nguyen.