The independent news organization of Duke University

Rainbow flag raises concerns

A flag hanging outside a window on Duke's East Campus prompted heated discussion Monday night after some students in Giles Dormitory expressed concern over the banner and requested its removal.

After a closed-door vote, Giles residents decided to keep the rainbow flag outside a resident's window but alter the way it was hung.

Freshman David Thian, who lives on Giles' second floor above the dorm's entrance, agreed to let junior Joanna Noble, president of Duke Allies-a student organization affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on campus-hang the flag outside his window Sunday in preparation for Coming Out Week.

Monday was the first day of COW, an annual AQUADuke-sponsored week of events supporting LGBT students.

After some students questioned the flag and its placement Monday, Thian decided to call a dorm meeting to vote on the issue.

Under Residence Life and Housing Services policies, students may hang a banner out of a window after receiving approval from their residence coordinator. Anne Magnan, RC for Giles, approved the flag before it was hung.

"I recognize the room is kind of central [over the Giles entrance], so what goes on... outside the window might be construed as representing the dorm," Thian said. "I am against homosexuality, however this is a free country and they have the right to say what they want to say."

At the Monday meeting, which attracted about 40 students and administrators, much of the discussion centered on RLHS banner policies and whether dorm residents should be allowed to hang flags at all.

Many students who opposed the flag, or the manner in which it was hung, said the dorm should not be used as a vehicle for advertising.

"I think the bigger issue is actually about the [banner] policy, be it the rainbow flag or a color," said freshman Matt Johnson.

A few students voiced concerns over the meaning of the flag, one noting he did not want others to interpret Giles as "the gay dorm."

Many who supported the flag said the dorm would be sending a message, particularly to LGBT students, if it took down the banner.

Senior Shaama Pandya, treasurer of AQUADuke, read an e-mail she was sent from an anonymous gay Giles resident who did not feel comfortable addressing the room.

"This rainbow flag controversy has made me question what I had thought could be valuable personal connections," she read from the e-mail. "I feel like I am in an environment where it is not acceptable for me to express who I am, and I feel intimidated by the furor surrounding the issue."

The letter mentioned concerns that many students echoed.

"You have residents in this hall who are LGBT. What are you saying here?" asked Kerry Poynter, assistant director of the LGBT Center.

After an hour of discussion, Giles residents voted to hang the flag horizontally within the window frame of Thian's room-prior to the meeting, the flag had been hung vertically out onto the balcony.

Though the conversation was tense and terse at times, most residents agreed it was beneficial to have the forum and discuss the situation.

"I feel like if every dorm had [a flag], it'd be a universal East Campus message," freshman Alex Cohen said. "And that'd be good."

It was a point not lost on freshman Rachel Wolf.

The Duke Allies member plans to hang a rainbow flag from the window of her Aycock dormitory room as soon as she can buy one.


Share and discuss “Rainbow flag raises concerns” on social media.