Gay flag burned at Albion College

BTL Staff Report

BATTLE CREEK -

Students and alumni reacted sharply to reports that three students will not be punished for allegedly burning a gay flag Oct. 18 on the campus of Albion College. The incident followed events to celebrate Coming Out Week.

"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," wrote student Eric Highers on a message board hosted by the student newspaper, The Albion Pleiad. Over 55 other students and alumni also reacted to the story on the paper's website, almost all of which condemned the flag burning. The few that defended the action did so on the basis of free speech.

Others were more measured in their response.

"I am proud being an Albion grad because they are handling the situation appropriately," said Alan Semonian, a 1984 graduate of the west Michigan school. "When I went to school there in the early 1980's they had a panel discussion on gay issues, which I thought was pretty progressive for the time."

Albion President Donna Randall issued a statement Nov. 10 in which she wrote, "I want to make it very clear that the College condemns harassment of any member of our College community." Her statement also provided these details of the incident and the college's response;

"On Oct. 19, a student contacted an Albion College staff member to anonymously complain that other students had allegedly burned a Gay Pride Flag on school property. In response to that complaint, Campus Safety promptly initiated an investigation. The investigation was complicated by requests for confidentiality from those who provided information, but Campus Safety was ultimately able to identify the students involved.

"Campus Safety's investigation revealed that the students involved found the flag in a trash can outside of Baldwin Hall and decided to burn it behind Wesley Hall. The only persons present when the flag was burned were the students involved, and the College is not aware of any other individuals who saw the flag being burned."

Efforts to reach school administrators were not successful. Ken Snyder, the director of campus safety, declined to comment to The Albion Pleiad about the decision to not reprimand the three students, citing the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

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