With reactions ranging from national media coverage to Facebook events to online petitions, the gay pride flag burning incident that occurred Oct. 18 at Albion College has drawn attention across the nation from a variety of respondents.
The gay pride flag burning occurred on the Monday of the Coming Out week’s parade. The flag was found by a couple of students in a trash can outside of Baldwin. Later that day, three of the students went out behind Wesley and burned the flag. After an investigation, the college decided against punishing the students involved.
After The Pleiad published an article on Nov. 4 describing the event and its outcome, a variety of reactions have occurred. One of the first reactions was the creation of a Facebook event by Eric Highers, Monroe junior, a student who went with another student to discuss the flag burning with the college’s campus safety.
The Facebook event called “Pride Flag Profile Pic (Demonstrate your Support for LGBTQA Students)” encourages students to change their profile pictures to one of a gay pride flag. Highers said it was in response to the flag burning incident as a means for those on and off campus to demonstrate their support for the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning (LGBTQ) community.
At publication, 264 people had “attended” the event and 143 had changed their profile pictures and posted status updates supporting the LGBTQ community on Albion’s campus.
“People over Facebook really intensified the issue; it spread so fast but it was a really good way to have everyone get involved with the situation,” said Jillian Putnam, Frankenmuth first-year.
Albion alumni also have also commented on the article at the Pleiad site, as well as the publication’s Facebook page. Several cited how they were ashamed of the school’s lack of action responding to the issue and in the non-punishment of the students.
Other websites also have taken notice of the event. WWMT News Channel 3 of the Grand Rapids, Battle Creek and Kalamazoo area posted a story on Nov. 8 about the event. On Nov. 9, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD.org) posted the story on their ‘stories to watch’ section of the site.
Other media that have picked up the story include The Battle Creek Enquirer, WLNS 6, Lansing’s news station, mlive.com, and The Chicago Tribune. WWMT’s original video made its way to the AOL video section of aol.com. As soon as The Associated Press picked up the story on Nov. 10, it was included in the USA Today and WTOL 11, Toledo’s news channel. On Nov. 11, The Huffington Post covered the event as well, quoting from The Pleiad article published on Nov. 4.
As part of the response, an online petition called ‘Albion Pride Petition’ requested that signers pledge to refrain from donating to Albion until the college takes action against the individuals who burned the flag. The site reads, “We love Albion College, and this is neither an attack on the institution or its president, but we pledge not to donate 1 cent until President Randall publicly repudiates this act and takes action against the perpetrators.” At publication, the site had collected 450 signatures.
On Nov. 10, Albion College’s President Donna Randall released a letter containing the college’s first public statement regarding the incident. In the letter, she addressed the college’s investigation of and reaction to the flag burning. Although citing specific privacy laws that prohibited any discussion of punishment, she emphasized the college’s condemnation of intolerance.
“I want to make it very clear that the College condemns harassment of any member of our College community,” she wrote in the statement. “I personally find such behavior reprehensible and offensive… We remain fully committed to protecting the rights of all members of the campus community and sustaining a campus environment that is welcoming to all persons.”
Click here to read written responses from various students, faculty and organizations on campus in response to the incident.