Gay Pride Flag Burned — Students receive no punishment

Albion College’s campus safety officials have notified three students involved in burning a gay pride flag on Oct. 18 that they will receive no punishment for burning the flag, said the students involved.

Ken Snyder, director of campus safety, declined to comment on the situation. He cited the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as his reason for not explaining the matter further.

Two of the three students involved commented on the situation following the decision not to punish them.

“I am deeply sorry that I didn’t stop the incident from occurring in the first place, sorry to anyone who was affected by it,” said a Rochester first-year student who was present for the flag burning. She requested anonymity due to concerns about her reputation.

The student involved who kept the flag described the reasoning behind the college’s decision not to punish the students. The Muskegon first-year said in his own opinion that the students involved were not punished because “the college doesn’t condone this action, and they know people will be upset but it wasn’t public, it wasn’t targeting one person and no one saw it happen.” He requested anonymity for fear of safety and reputation.

Sally Walker, VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, was contacted multiple times by the Pleiad to comment. She did not return comment by publication.

The student who burned the flag declined to comment on his reasoning. However, he described the flag as being bigger than a piece of paper and he stated it was almost completely burned.

The incident took place on Oct. 18 behind Wesley Hall following events to celebrate Coming Out Week. The event supports people who decide to declare their sexual orientation publicly. The yearly event, held on college campuses throughout the country, was celebrated at Albion with a parade and speeches.

Following the incident, the roommate of one of the students decided he needed to do something. Andy Leyder, Linden first-year,went to his student mentor,  Eric Highers, Monroe junior, for help in deciding whether to go to campus safety to discuss the incident.

“I was incredibly upset when I heard about this event—many of the LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning) juniors had heard about the tarring incident that happened before I came here, but I never thought I would have to deal with something like this on campus,” Highers said. “This was such a public act of hate with such contempt for our community.”

Highers was referring to an incident that occurred three years ago when the Albion College rock on the quad was tarred during the Coming Out Week that year.

Highers and the roommate went to Campus Safety on Oct. 21 and discussed the situation with Campus Safety Director Ken Snyder.  Snyder said he had information coming in about the incident as early as Oct. 19.

“I’m a minority and I know what it’s like to be discriminated against and no one deserves to be discriminated against, no matter who they are,” Leyder said.

Other students also went to campus safety with information about the incident, including those who had seen the flag and heard the student who kept the flag talking about how all the gays were going to ‘burn in hell’ and that he just saw the ‘fag parade’.

Based on the interviews and information, Snyder then conducted a search of the room while the student was at work, said the roommate. The flag was found and is now in the possession of campus safety.

About Claire Van Raaphorst 33 Articles
Claire is a senior from Rochester, MI. She is a double major in English and Communication Studies and a minor in Art History.


  1. As an alum, I find it incredibly embarrassing and discouraging that such actions continue taking place on campus during Coming Out Week. Whether its defacement of chalk or encouragement of disruption of meetings, as happened when I attended between ’99 and ’03, to the tarring of the Rock and this incident, it’s clearly apparent that some on campus consistently fail to open up their minds to the diversity found there. Perhaps it’s something some will grow out of, if this incident took place at Wesley, as is stated, clearly some persons may lack exposure to “teh gays” and react out of irrational prejudices perhaps fostered by small town or over protected childhoods. But some, I fear, continue to walk around the quad with closed minds and hearts throughout their time at school, plainly ignoring Christianity’s founder’s second greatest commandment. That the school would fail to discipline those responsible is shameful. My only hope is that perhaps those who perpetrated this will come to seriously examine themselves and seek out the roots of their irrational prejudices. Perhaps a donation to BTS would be in order from them or their families.

  2. I am troubled by the use of “sexual preferences” since most in the LGBTQ community use the term “sexual orientation.”

    I am also troubled that the students who participated in this act are being protected because of their “reputation” instead of being held responsible. Eric Highers is right this is an act of hate. And the idea that this wasn’t “public” just because the student didn’t do it in Baldwin, but with friends watching and talking to people about it afterward, means that it was public.

    There are many reasons I don’t give as an alumni, and this is one of them: the school systematically fails to protect certain people, while protecting others who need to be held accountable for their actions.

  3. This is unbelivable. I understand, as Americans, we have the right to freedom of speech. However, we also have rights against persicution and saftey of our well-being. Ken Snyder,s job is to make students feel safe and secure in a condusive learning enviorment. Shame on him. I guess underage drinking really is more important at Albion. So long any hopes of Alumni donation from me….unless it is to the Break the Silence group on campus.

  4. I agree with Director Snyder and his decision not to punish the students involved due to the fact that no one was hurt. Also the gay community is not protected under the Civil Rights Acts or hate crime legislation. Finally, I don’t understand why people consider the tarring of the rock a few years ago an act against the gay community. As I remember the rock had been painted for 24 hours and was available to be used by any Albion College student or group. People to need to remember our constitutional rights which do apply to our College’s campus.

  5. Bullying has no place regardless of orientation. However flag burning is protected by the first Amendment. You’re free to burn the American flag after all.

  6. I tried to post a comment about US flag burning and the first amendment. But it seems I can’t? Bottom line – bullying is never ok, never has been. Regardless of orientation. But flag burning is protected by the first amendment folks.

  7. Just because “no one saw it happen” is absolutely no reason that such an incident shouldn’t be addressed. As the existence of this article shows, people know what happened and are not comfortable with such a thing happening. If it had been an American flag burned, I imagine this article would read very, very differently.

  8. Those worried about their reputations should have thought about their actions prior to committing them. But that’s what college is about, isn’t it? You would expect more open-mindedness at a liberal arts college.

  9. Just utterly disgusted…as stated previously….I don’t give to the college and this is one of the many reasons why…

  10. The right to express your self is well protected and no one was hurt but these students created a danger in a public area. Fire is dangerous and there is no mention of permission to use fire in this demonstration. There should at least be a fine for that.

  11. 1. As already stated, flag burning is not illegal. Doesn’t matter what flag it is. The college can’t fine someone for something that isn’t illegal. Yes, maybe they should have been fined for using fire, but everyone still would be complaining that they weren’t fined for the actual flag burning.

    2. You also have to remember that it’s probably not the Director’s choice whether someone gets fined or not. Just as the police solve a crime, write a report and turn it over to the court system to decide what happens, Campus Safety writes reports and turns them over to the college judicial system. So before saying “Shame on (whoever)”… remember it’s not one specific person.

  12. This is not about free speech. This is about students who publicly demonstrated hate for the LGBTQA community and how our school has been affected by this. Your “free speech” has consequences. I’m not talking about a fine or suspension I’m talking about fear, anxiety and self-hate all of which are encouraged by the heterosexist/homophobic sentiments this PUBLIC ACT embodied.

    The people that did this reinforced the national prejudice toward our community.

    The people that did this made me question, what could happen next- could I get jumped for kissing my boyfriend in public? Is it possible my car might be vandalized on campus if someone sees me walk away from it? Could my brother, a freshman here, face any harm for having a gay brother on campus?

    The people that did this made it more difficult for someone to come out of the closet and embrace their identity. While college may have been a safe place from their oppressive hometowns or high schools, for some incoming freshman or even upperclassman, I now have to think twice about telling people it’s okay to simply BE here.

    The people that did this and the fact that they walked away with no consequences, validated the suicides committed by LGBT youth across the nation at both a high school and college level- which occurred two weeks prior to Coming Out Week. While the kids that burnt the flag may not have texted, or posted a facebook comment that condemned us to hell (even though one of the perpetrators had made verbal comments like that before) the hate is all there, wrapped up in a flame.

    I was scared. I was nervous about what this meant for me and my boyfriend on campus. I was afraid that my students in my First Year Seminar could be hurt for speaking out against this act of hate, and many of them were too. And the one week where I thought our community could enjoy ourselves, the one week where I thought we could demonstrate how this institution embraces us in their diversity, was undoubtedly tarnished.

    This was violence. According to here is the definition of violence:
    vi·o·lence 1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm. 2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence. 3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence. 4. a violent act or proceeding. 5. rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred. 6. damage through distortion or unwarranted alteration: to do editorial violence to a text

    Note definitions 5 & 6. You will find similar definitions elsewhere.

    All the heterosexual privilege in the world would naturally help people rationalize this and come to the conclusion that they are constitutionally protected, but they miss the point and in turn condone this act. Focusing on how the perpetrator is legally protected only deviates attention away from the effects of the act itself. I hope the conversation shifts from this point forward toward the effects of this “free speech” not it’s legitimacy.

  13. I’m completely appalled about this situation. As a former president of Break the Silence and a member of the gay community, I find this incident incredibly hurtful even though I graduated two years ago. While we don’t know the exact circumstances as to why the involved students weren’t punished, I have to say that I’m not completely surprised. Albion’s response to public displays of blatant homophobia and discrimination have always been rather lax. This is an act of discrimination, just as the tarring of the rock was, as well as the rock defacing that took place for several years prior. I fully accept the right to freely express oneself, but to take an oppositional stand in such a hateful, cowardly way does nothing but create a wider gap. It is for reasons like this that I will never donate money as an alum to Albion College. I will not support an institution that stands by and does nothing while hateful acts continue to be committed.

  14. As for the issue of the Rock, John Highers, you’re correct that it is painted regularly, often several times in a week. However, tarring the Rock wasn’t a creative act. It was a destructive one. Those who did it didn’t create anything or post their own message. They simply defaced the message of another. I acknowledge that people are free to do so. But everyone else is also free to feel nothing but disgust and contempt for the hatefulness of the act.

  15. These are sadly only a few of the less violent and hateful acts committed on campus. I am disgusted and angry at the administration and students involved in any acts like these. I want my money back, am glad I got out when I did, and will never ever be sending any donations to a school that allows and protects perpetrators of such violent and hateful acts and ideals such as homophobia.

  16. I have to agree with Danielle. As former President of Umbrella, I can remember my times at Albion and how Public Safety always performed bare minimum (if that). I have to say that while we had minor issues, I would consider this a big one and the schools blatant blind eye is quite atrocious. You can talk constitution all you want, but hate is hate. And this is a private college that I’ve seen have very little mercy when it came to punishing the student body. As an alumni, I cannot and will not support a hypocritical institution that wants to speak one way and act another. There will be no donations here anytime in the near future.

  17. I was around for the tarring incident, it was clearly not a legitimate use of the rock but rather a defacement. I echo the same sentiment of others who have posted here that I will never contribute a penny to any sort of Alumni Giving campaign. But I am, actually, surprised that there was no disciplinary action against these students; the College is usually pretty generous is dishing out discipline for even minor infractions of policy.

    I suggest you make a fuss using the college’s judicial process, and the Student Handbook has several passages which may pertain to this incident in section VI: Policies and Expectations. “Student participation in activities that develop to a degree to elicit public alarm, disturbs the peace, threatens or endangers personal wellbeing, or harms public or private property is prohibited. … Prohibited activities include but are not limited to 1a. theft, misappropriation, unauthorized taking of, or 1b. unauthorized entry into College property or property belonging to others…. 3d. aiding, abetting, encouraging, or participating in violent actions… 8. damage or destruction of College property or of property belonging to others… (p.73).”

    “Discriminatory Harassment: The College will not tolerate any acts of intimidation or any behaviors that demean, slur, or stereotype any individual or group on the basis of sexual orientation, … These include oral and written remarks, illustrations, innuendos, and electronic messages or postings. (p.81)”

    Pages 65-72 outline the judicial process to resolve a “conflict,” and includes language regarding property. I assume that this flag was stolen from somewhere or other. The Social Infractions Division of the College Judicial Board should be consulted.

    And if that doesn’t work you can alert the media.

  18. I am appalled by this incident. The only thing I find more disgusting than a public display of hate is that people would line up to support it.

    It does not matter if flag burning is protected speech. Albion is a private institution with the right to regulate activities taking place on campus in order to provide a safe community for its students. The college administration is not a court, and it follows its own separate rules and procedures for regulating student behavior on campus. When you are on campus you are not only governed by the law, but the college’s rules as well. The idea of free speech does not exist in a vacuum; to be terse, it is not a “get out of jail free” card that can be played regardless of the facts surrounding the incident.

    That said, I agree with Eric- the focus here should not be on free speech. Defending the right to have a position and defending that position itself are not the same thing. Even if this was protected speech, that should not stop people from speaking about against the flag burning and the hate that underlies such an action. If you want to stand up for a cause, speak up for the people who are being targeted by random acts of hate because of their sexual identity. Go raise awareness about the ongoing need to provide safe spaces for LGBT individuals, and about how this need is caused by people’s willingness to look the other way when acts like this one take place. Openly declaring that the hate demonstrated by the flag burning is unacceptable behavior would be a better cause to support, because that at least has the power to change the status quo.

    There is no connection between free speech and statements that are socially and morally acceptable. We should be concerned with the societal implications of the flag burning and the effect it has on the LGBT community, not the relevant case law. I believe in free speech, but I also believe that my friends and loved ones have the right to live in a safe world irrespective of their sexual orientation. Nothing will change if we continue to make excuses for acts of hate.

  19. This is disgusting. And the defense of this in the name of free speech is even more disgusting. I want to echo John’s comment about following through with disciplinary action through the student judicial process. This is an obvious case of hate speech intended to intimidate, harm and silence. My heart goes out to the LGBTQ community on campus.

  20. As an alumnus, I too find this act and the college’s response appalling. The creation of an environment of fear and intimidation is not free speech. Albion has a duty to create a safe environment for its students. Nobody should have to walk around campus wondering if they will be attacked.

    As an alumnus, I feel indebted to the college, both for my education and the financial support provided to me. This fall I entered a doctoral program at one of the top 25 public universities in the country. Without my education at Albion, I would not be here. This fall I gave much more generously than you would guess based on the stipend provided to me for a 20 hour per week teaching assistantship.

    For those of you who refuse to give money to the school, consider that you may be able to donate directly to specific departments or organizations – I’m looking into this myself. In addition, simple refusal to give provides no incentive for the administration to change its tactics. Pledges to donate in response to measurable improvements, on the other hand, does provide just such an incentive.

    I encourage you all to make a pledge to give generously if and when the college administration changes its policies. Behavior such as that demonstrated by the flag burning students is not unique to Albion, but we can make it less likely to happen. Clear consequences for such behavior must be established and enforced. Because I hope that the minds of college students can be changed, I believe that initial infractions should be met with genuine attempts to first understand the student’s beliefs and motivations, and second, attempts to provide meaningful education in a manner that the student can accept. Finally, such behavior should result in a permanent probationary status: you can have one more chance, but that’s it.

    Spencer Dawson
    Albion College Class of 2006
    Clinical Psychology Graduate Student, University of Arizona

  21. I echo many who have previously posted in my disgust over this event and more so the silence on the part of the school. As an alumni I can say that Albion College is simply not a safe school and this event while done by a few students demonstrates the views of many there- so the LGBTQ students will get upset and protest and the college will hold some “diversity” event next month and call it a day. I encourage the queer students on campus to reach out to the media regarding this event and the lack of response on the college’s part- blogs, radio, papers.

  22. As an alumnus, I too find this act and the college’s response appalling. The creation of an environment of fear and intimidation is not free speech. Albion has a duty to create a safe environment for its students. Nobody should have to walk around campus wondering if they will be attacked.

    As an alumnus, I feel indebted to the college, both for my education and the financial support provided to me. This fall I entered a doctoral program at one of the top 25 public universities in the country. Without my education at Albion, I would not be here. This fall I gave much more generously than you would guess based on the stipend provided to me for a 20 hour per week teaching assistantship.

    For those of you who refuse to give money to the school, consider that you may be able to donate directly to specific departments or organizations – I’m looking into this myself. In addition, simple refusal to give provides no incentive for the administration to change its tactics. Pledges to donate in response to measurable improvements, on the other hand, does provide just such an incentive.

    I encourage you all to make a pledge to give generously if and when the college administration changes its policies. Behavior such as that demonstrated by the flag burning students is not unique to Albion, but we can make it less likely to happen. Clear consequences for such behavior must be established and enforced. Because I hope that the minds of college students can be changed, I believe that initial infractions should be met with genuine attempts to first understand the student’s beliefs and motivations, and second, attempts to provide meaningful education in a manner that the student can accept. Finally, such behavior should result in a permanent probationary status: you can have one more chance, but that’s it.

    Spencer Dawson
    Albion College Class of 2006

  23. Is anyone really surprised? The Albion administration has shown time and time again that they don’t care about the students, only the tuition they bring in. I bet the students involved pay full tuition, and they really don’t want to risk the 30k/yr involved. Typical.

  24. Last year Albion College was proud to admit over 30 international students into the freshman class. The students came from all over the world and Albion used this as a recruiting tool, emphasizing that they were diversifying the student community.
    One of these students worked with Dining and Hospitality to organize a day in Baldwin when the students were served Nepali style food while traditional Nepali music played on a stereo.
    What if after this event, a group of 3 students went behind Baldwin and burned a Nepali flag? True, it is your right to burn a flag if you wish but this would have sent a clear message to the international community that they are not welcome and surely they would no long feel safe on campus. Students attend college to be exposed to new and different ideas and they do not have to agree with these ideas but they should NEVER feel like they are no longer safe while expressing their opinion. Students on campus clearly felt unsafe after the burning of the flag occurred. Just as if any other flag would have been burned or group targeted, something should be done to ensure that this behavior will not continue. If the students who burnt the flag wish to voice their opinion, then please, just like any other student group, stand on the front steps of Baldwin and demonstrate that you do not condone homosexuality.
    If Albion College does not feel that any rules have been broken, then they need look no further than the Handbook they wrote. (Thank you John for citing the Handbook)

  25. Actually James, burning a gay pride flag is a hate crime I believe? Correct me if I am wrong. When I say that please provide proof and don’t just say “Hey dumb faggot (which is very offensive obviously), you’re wrong.”

  26. This is NOT a private college. It is a United Methodist college, a religious institution. The doctrines of The United Methodist Church are clear about respecting homosexual persons. These actions are clearly outside the bounds of acceptable behavior in the United Methodist Church and the college administration should step forward and address the situation appropriately. Too long the church tolerates intolerable behavior. Come on, Albion College, be the church. Live up to you call.

  27. I must say that I am DEEPLY embarrassed that something like this could have happened at my alma mater. Not only that, but one of those involved was from my home town, Rochester. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about what I feel should happen to those responsible, however. We have to balance respect for the civil liberties of those responsible (no matter how foolish, hateful, and just plain stupid their actions were) with respect for the civil rights of the LGBTQ students on campus. My hope would be that official action on the part of the university wouldn’t be necessary and that the majority of campus would find the students’ actions so repugnant that those responsible would feel out of place and unwelcome amongst the decent, tolerant and accepting student body. After attending Albion for 4 years, however, I know this probably won’t be the case…

    Also, just a note for the Pleiad Staff, the proper term is “sexual orientation” not “sexual preference”. “Preference” implies that there is a choice. There is not. The tenor of the rest of the article doesn’t seem to favor hate so I’m guessing this is an oversight. Nonetheless, a retraction should be printed.

  28. And, actually, the more I think about it the more I realize that this really shouldn’t be a free speech issue. Burning an American flag is an act of political protest against an idea. Burning a pride flag is an act of hatred against a specific group of people.

  29. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, it is our constitutional right. It is acting upon that opinion that has the power to, in this case, hurt others.

    To the people that have stated they will not give back to Albion because of this:
    Please do not judge an entire educational community based on the actions of three people. Three people are not an accurate representation of the college as a whole. As far as the students not being punished about it, there are FAR more effective ways of influencing the administration here than refusing to donate money. Administrators have a lot on their plates, sometimes it takes more than a few voices to bring their attention to an issue. If it really means that much to you, do some homework and find out how to be proactive about it instead of just bitching and making threats. Make them listen!

    To the students that committed this action:
    Please remember that as a student of this school, you represent this school in everything that you do. Welcome to the real world where your actions have real consequences. Hateful actions only perpetuate more hate, as is obvious from some of the comments here. You are certainly allowed to be against gay rights, but take care in how you express it. There is a large number of students and alumni that you have upset and ostracized yourselves from by doing this. If these are the kind of actions you believe in, then perhaps Albion is not the right community for you.


    I am from the Jackson Citizen Patriot and have been working on fully flushing out the details on this story for several days, with a lot more details popping up. The Pleiad did a great job of breaking this news and Channel 3 WWMT did its part as well. I know some of the college administrators fairly well and have unique access to their P.O.V. on this, but they usually do not talk to me unless I have compiled more than adequate information from outside sources. If anyone has further details about the ramifications being faced due to the incident, the actual flag itself, or any discussion taking place on campus PLEASE help the Cit Pat tell the full story to the community and to the administration. E-mail me at if you’re willing to chat and I’ll get a hold of you. Thanks a lot and nice work by the Pleiad here.

  31. Honestly, I’m not surprised with the administration’s lack of disciplinary action. This is a prime example of misplaced priorities in regard to the collegiate judicial system. If they took half the time they spend enforcing alcohol and drug policy (e.g. throwing students out of school for possession of marijuana) and spent it on punishing students who commit egregious acts of intolerance and hatred (which one could argue in some ways are far more detrimental to the positive growth of the institution) then perhaps student retention wouldn’t be such an issue. If I was gay, it would be the last nail in the coffin in terms of keeping me at Albion and I would immediately transfer to greener, more tolerant pastures that actually live up to their diversity plan. Admissions likes to praise Albion’s diversity and tolerance, but Student Affairs utterly fails to live up to the image that Albion so desperately tries to sell to students.

    I for one, am extremely disappointed with the lack of action in this case. If someone burned a cross in front of the BSA house, I bet the individuals responsible would be disciplined appropriately. This is no different. This is the equivalent of a klan rally staged on campus, it creates an environment of fear and intimidation. The college has every right to take the appropriate disciplinary action and it should.

    As people have already stated, this is not a free speech issue. The college is a private institution with policies that students agree to abide by or face ramifications. In essence, the students who committed the act are in violation of those policies, deliberately creating an environment of intolerance and intimidation of the LGBTQ community. It is wholly inappropriate for an institution of higher learning and the administration’s indifference is appalling and embarrassing.

    This is a direct violation of policy, the appropriate action needs to be taken. When is the board of trustees going to wake up and step into the real world? This is yet another example of the challenges facing Albion as time progresses and how out of touch the administration is in running an academic institution in the 21st century. This is appalling and as an alumnus I am ashamed to be associated with an institution that refuses to take the appropriate action in blatant acts of intolerance.

  32. As with many issues surrounding Albion, I don’t believe that the students know all the facts about the situation and are jumping to conclusions.

    Please note, that I do think the students deserve some sort of consequence for their actions. Expulsion, not so much, but certainly something that will cause them to think of the recklessness of their actions and how their actions affected others.

  33. big surprise that the college did nothing. why don’t they just tell us queers to NOT apply. Albion College was not a safe school when I attended and it is clear that it is still not one.

  34. As someone who spent a lot of time with organizations, administrators and individuals dedicated to promoting tolerance and equality, I am profoundly heart broken to know that intolerance and hatefulness is allowed to go masquerading as freedom of expression. This refusal to take responsibility, to follow through on the moral conduct the College claims to uphold is inexcusable and cowardly. I feel betrayed by an Institution whose recent actions have made it almost impossible to recognize. What message do they wish to send, exactly? “Hate crimes are very bad, except for some, which are not” ?”Lux fiat” is a motto I understood to be representative of repelling ignorance and facilitating knowledge and truth, but this is hardly appropriate when ignorance is quietly overlooked. Although I cherished my college memories of a place facilitating growth, I cannot speak proudly of a place whose inequality and lack of action undermines the very values they claim to champion. I am ashamed for them and of them. It felt like we were making changes, it felt like the visionary ‘forward thinking’ of Albion College was making progress to pave the way for a more informed, conscientious generation. Instead, the lack of response from Donna Randall has left me in the dark. The unwillingness to address what happened feels like spit in the faces of the many students, professors and organizations on campus who work so hard to address diversity. What is the point of having an umbrella organization if the Constitution that funds it fails to uphold its values? It makes me sick.

  35. Why should anyone be concerned about the reputation of bigots? These are hateful individuals that need to be called out for what they have done so that they can see the error in their ways.

  36. It it clear to me that Albion College is not concerned with the status of LGBTQ students and allies on campus. Albion is a private college, and its decision to tolerate this type of behavior has little or nothing to do with ‘the right to free speech.’ As a private institution, Albion College has the right to determine what types of behavior are appropriate for the adults on their campus property. It certainly is not the right of Albion to limit the right of speech of individuals so long as they are not on college property.

    This is simply a case where students, on private campus property, in a public outdoors area, created a hate filled, discriminatory, derogatory atmosphere. This atmosphere is tacitly condoned by the administration since these individuals speak to others, and use hate filled language about ‘fag parades,’ and how gays will ‘burn in hell.’ The college, I would wager, would not find it acceptable to excuse students from any and all censure if those same students had chosen to burn a cross, or an effigy on the Wesley lawn, and speak to other students on campus about how they ‘saw the spook parade’ or that ‘all niggers will burn in hell.’

    It is Albion’s choice as a private college to condone or condemn these actions, and as an alumnus, I feel the need to express my profound disapproval for the lack of appropriate action by the administration. I would be ashamed to have my name attached to an institution that does not endorse or enforce a hatred free campus.

    I am not arguing for retributive action on the part of the college if there are no policies currently in place to punish this type of behavior. But at the very least, it needs to be made clear that on campus property, intimidation, discrimination, and bigotry will under no circumstances be tolerated, with the serious deterrent of severe punishment.

  37. Diversity is what makes an educational institution great. Albion College has a responsibility to its students to foster an educational environment where differences are respected, embraced, and explored, not silenced. It is irresponsible for an institution of higher education not to take a stand against such acts on its campus, no matter how private the act. Albion should be using the unfortunate actions taken by a few to educate the many on its campus that there is no place for intolerance in an Albion education.

    I am proud of my Albion College education. However, at this time I cannot be proud of Albion College. My dollars, and the dollars of many of my fellow alumni, will not go to support Albion until the treatment of this situation is rectified.

  38. The act itself, is of course, incredibly disturbing, but what I find most appalling is the complete and utter ineptitude of the administration in handling and meting out a meaningful response — let alone any punishment for the students involved. Wiping your hands of the matter and letting these students off with not even a meager form of punishments – is that really how they want to play it? This failure illustrates a college administration that is completely unwilling and unprepared to deal with issues that have much more importance than a kid caught smoking a joint in his dorm-room.

    I wish I had something more cogent to bring to this discussion, but I think Dan M, Spencer, Steve Fish, Joe Taylor, et al have really addressed it well. I really hope the administration is listening, but I won’t hold me breath, its proven itself to be tone-deaf on these matters over and over and over again.

    Zack Dagneau, 2006

  39. First of all, I’m appalled by the use of the term “preference” ib this article. Preference suggests that sexual orientation is a choice, which it is not. Some may debate me on this, but many organizations such as the American Psychological Association (who removed “homosexuality” from the DSM in the 1980s) or the National Association of Social Workers have openly declared that same sex relationships and attractions are not a choice. If I could have “chosen” to be heterosexual, I sure would have. Life would have been a lot easier especially on a campus like Albion.

    As an Albion alum and gay, it saddens me to hear that nothing was done about this. Some may argue that the burning of a gay flag is a right under the first ammendment, but what if I decided to burn an American flag in the center of campus? I would probably be disciplined. No doubt.

    It’s been eight years since I’ve graduated and I look back on my days fondly. I was able to find a community although I was closeted and afraid to come out. But rightfully so. A friend of mine, who is also gay was chased down by someone at our dorm. He called campus safety in a fear for his own well being and nothing was done. I guess not much had changed.

    In a society that is making strides in advancing protection and rights to minorities whether it be racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation based, it seems that Albion is still steps behind. People have a right to protest and state their opionions, but people also have a right to feel safe. Allowing the burning of a gay flag with no consequences for those who did it sends the message to LGBTQ students that “you’re not welcome here.”

  40. There action doesn’t surprise me, this is yet another example of hatred on campus. As a former student and a minority, I encountered many racially driven acts of hatred. People look at just the act, but don’t take into account the complimentary evidence. It was not by chance that the students just decided to burn this particular flag(gay pride) on this particular week(gay pride). I by no means agree with homosexuality or support it. But i do recognize a morally wrong action, furthermore i know if someone burned a African American flag during African American History month i would feel personally insulted and outraged.

  41. WHOA, hold up Rick Blunt. Last I checked, Albion College was NOT a United Methodist college. Has something changed since I graduated 4 years ago? When I graduated, the story was that Albion College had been FOUNDED by the United Methodist church (actually, as a seminary, I believe). It is still associated with them and a UMC congregation meets on campus every Sunday; however, that’s really the last holdout of any original “ownership.”


    But regardless of all of that, yes, the college should respect and protect the existence of the LGBTQA community on campus. Our country stands for “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” from what I’m reading, LGBTQA students on campus are not happy about this, and some are even scared for their lives. And the church, regardless of denomination, “supports” LGBTQAs through a doctrine of loving everyone equal and the forgiveness of “sins” (which homosexuality is seen as in a number of denominations).

    Those students who do not yet feel ready to “come out” are most certainly the victims in this situation. Those who are already “out” understand what they are up against, and they have stepped out boldly to meet it and fight it. Those who are not yet out live in fear of attack, fear that next time it might not just be a flag which is burned; they live with the hope that if they keep their heads down, stay quiet, and live with some amount of turmoil which is already inside of them that they will survive–not enjoy–college. Regardless of what minority we are talking about, is that really life?

    I may not be LGBTQA, but I survived Albion with my own set of secrets for which I thought I would be persecuted. I still survive with them today. Perhaps the burning of the gay pride flag was not an action against one person, but it is an attack all the same and is not acceptable.

  42. I was recently asked by a younger family friend for my advice in choosing between Albion College and the University of Michigan. I was hesitant, but ended up telling her she would be better off at the University of Michigan. Albion’s response to this act of hatred leaves little doubt in my mind that she made the right choice. I will make sure any other college-aged students thinking of Albion College go elsewhere, I will not be donating any money to the school, and I will no longer wear any of my Albion apparel.

  43. Kudos to The Pleiad for publishing this article, which I’m sure made the administration unhappy.

    Keep pushing the envelope and keeping the Albion community informed, guys.

  44. Please see the College’s statement from President Randall about the gay pride flag-burning incident that occurred on campus:

  45. I applaud Albion for not giving in to a popular call for limiting free speech at Albion College.

    The burning of flags as a means to convey a particular message that would be understood by witnesses to the act was held to be protected speech by the Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson (1989), provided there are no breach of the peach concerns. The actions, or inaction, by the college does not seem to have chilled the speech of the Pro- GLBT community. On the other hand, silencing the religious views of these individuals by the college could have a chilling effect on the free speech of religious groups. There are no facts to support any incitement of violent acts or intimidation. If there are other acts of intimidation or overtures of violence against either group, I would encourage those incident to be brought to the attention of the college or local police.

    I would caution GLBT supporters from advocating the proscription of unpopular speech as such mechanisms could just as easily be used to silence their voice.

    Ryan Lane
    Class of 2003.

  46. Burn an Albion flag at every school event. The school will have no recourse per their own policies and excuses. Or will there be a double standard…and then a lawsuit? Make them pay.

  47. Ryan, there is no published evidence that this flag burning occurred because of religious beliefs. If you base your assertion on the “burn in hell” quote in this article, I’d invite you to think of the numerous times you’ve heard that line used outside of a religious context.

    Annalisa, the college is still directly affiliated with the United Methodist Church (

    President Randall, though I have been a reluctant donor to this point, I am glad to see that you have responded publicly to this event. I will continue to be a reluctant donor for reasons beyond this event, but I want you to know that I appreciate your public statement. I believe that these students’ actions were within the realm of student behavior that can and should be disciplined, but it is good to read that you personally abhor such behavior.

    Thank you, Pleiad editors, for publishing this story.

    Stephen Courtright, ’04

  48. To “A Concerned Student”,

    We aren’t judging the entire educational community based on the actions of three individuals when we decide not to contribute. We are judging the administration for their lack of action on the issue.

  49. Ryan, free speech is about the government and political speech, it’s not about the freedom to incite, harass, or threaten others. If you are saying that clear hate speech against anyone is something that is protected, then perhaps you should have gone to a better college and learned about civics. Clearly, as an institution, Albion has failed you if you cannot see the difference and you oversimplify the greatest pillar of freedom in this nation. Furthermore, to dare to imply that not allowing people to harass gays is a limit to religious freedom is a disgusting insult to people who ARE harassed by religious fanaticism. Are you saying it’s okay to burn a synagogue because you don’t like the Jews due to your conflicting religious views? Shame on you.

    Class of 1999, from a school I’m very happy i attended instead of yours.

  50. Here is an excerpt from a relevant case (Doe v. University of Michigan) involving the issue of university speech codes.

    “In 1986, a sophomore at Yale was put on probation for two years by a University discipline board for disseminating a malicious flier intended to ridicule the homosexual community. The board eventually reversed the sanction, but only after a second hearing was held at which the student was represented by historian C. Vann Woodward, author of the University’s 1975 report on free speech. N.Y. [868] Times, Oct. 15, 1986, at A27. That report concluded that “freedom of expression is a paramount value, more important than civility or rationality.” N.Y. Times, Sept. 22, 1986, at B4. Writing about the case, Professor Woodward observed:

    It simply seems unnatural to make a fuss about the rights of a speaker who offends the moral or political convictions passionately held by a majority. The far more natural impulse is to stop the nonsense, shut it up, punish it–anything but defend it. But to give rein to that inclination would be to make the majority the arbiters of truth for all. Furthermore, it would put the universities into the business of censorship.

    New York Times, Oct. 15, 1986, at A27.”

  51. I’m sorry Ryan, but the act described doesn’t seem to be one worthy of the respect you’re giving it. If the CRs or a religious group had staged a protest against Coming Out Week on the steps of Baldwin, I’d be with you in defending that group’s right to do so without consequence, even as much as I might disagree with their actions.

    This action was designed solely to intimidate. It wasn’t about making a religious statement. I don’t deny that the first amendment protects their ability to do this without government sanction. I would simply like to either know their names, or know that real actions are being taken with regards to the intimidation.

  52. Why does everyone want to know the names of these students? So they can receive a barrage of anger and hatred towards them? An eye for an eye? What good does that do?

    What they did was wrong and I’m positive they know it. Yes, they deserved some sort of consequence, but outing them does no good. The students haven’t publicly expressed their motivation, maybe it was anger and hatred, maybe it was sheer stupidity (or hey! maybe it was both), but I don’t think ostracizing them will do any good or help open their hearts and minds to people and ideas that are different.

    I am glad that Dr. Randall has put out a public announcement about this issue that expressed her feelings about those students’ actions. She said Albion handled it according to policy. Is everyone so jaded that they can’t believe her and that Albion honestly must hate everyone ever? I’m sure most of what she said was to satisfy (and pacify) past and present and future students. But how is keeping a level of professionalism wrong? She can’t risk saying anything that would upset anyone at this point.

    You can catch more flies with honey.

  53. You know, what saddens me most is the assumption that, were the names to be released, the LGBTQA community would come after them with rocks and pitchforks. Why assume that hate is the best way to fight hate? I’m not necessarily advocating for their names to be released, but if they were, the public shame of what they’ve done is something they’ll have to live with forever.

  54. There were gay students at Albion when I attended there in the 1980’s. I am married, and that lifestyle not for me. However, I knew many in the band and Orchestra that were not straight, and it never bothered me.

    These incidents are still happening all over the country, not at Albion. What happened at Rutgers University this year was way more heinous than what happened here.

    The Rock has always been a point of view for anyone on campus. I would have just painted right back over the tar.

    And as for the flag burning, constitutional law trumps state law. Bullies are everywhere, and on EVERY campus. And you will see them at work too. I would personally decide just not to be friends with these people if they are not apologizing for what they have done.

    With the Rutgers incident, the Matthew Shephard incident years ago, just indicates that there are mean people out there in the world everywhere, not just on Albion’s campus.

    Some of my best role models and teachers were at Albion when I was there. I will ALWAYS give to the scholarship fund for the students as someone gave funds for me.

    These incidents are happening all over the country. And for the students at Rutgers whose cruelty caused that poor young man to hang himself, what has happened to them? Nobody knows, as it has not been reported in
    news lately. It is sad these events happen. To speak out and try to make the world a better place for others is pretty much all we can do.

  55. Although I do not agree with these actions and believethey are despicable and the people who think this are just ignorant people, there is no way the kids who committed this can be punished.

    In a Supreme Court Case Johnson v. Texas I believe, the Supreme Court ruled that burning a flag is protected under the first ammendment.

    More recently the Supreme Court ruled that the “church group” that protests outside of military funerals, have every rigth to do so.

    They often rule that no one has the right not to be offended by something.

    I am not saying that I agree with any of theses people’s views, but the law protects these people’s opinions, no matter how wrong and ignorant they may be.

  56. “The incident took place on Oct. 18 behind Wesley Hall following events to celebrate Coming Out Week. The event supports people who decide to declare their sexual orientation publicly. The yearly event, held on college campuses throughout the country, was celebrated at Albion with a parade and speeches.”

    So let me get this straight. There’s a “Coming Out Week” containing parades, speeches, and everything else. One person performs this act in protest, and everybody is coming at him over it.

    Is pro-gay expression the only expression that is allowed anymore? Did someone slip that clause in the 1st Amendment when I wasn’t looking? Apparently if you don’t support gay rights, you’re not allowed to show that. You might offend someone. It doesn’t matter if anyone is offended by the very public gay pride parades and speeches. However, how dare you offend anyone who is homosexual, even by a form of protest that is not very public.

    I’m happy this student did not receive any punishment. It would be a shame if he did. However, I think he has been persecuted too much already. He should be allowed to express himself as freely as the homosexuals express themselves in pride parades, etc.

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