University denies request for permanent Pride flag on campus

By: Keri Luise, Staff Writer

Photo by Marcus Dieterle/ The Towerlight.

[Editor’s note 3/25/18: This story has been updated to clarify Towson University administration’s position on the Pride flag request.]

Junior Philip Taylor and other members of the LGBTQ+ community at Towson University are advocating for a permanent Pride flag to be displayed on campus, but so far the University has refused the request.

Last semester, Taylor approached the Center for Student Diversity to establish an LGBTQ+ Pride flag on campus between the Liberal Arts Building and Burdick Hall.

Taylor said the Pride flag would have black and brown stripes at the top to honor people of color in the LGBTQ+ community, who are often underrepresented on campus, to show a commitment of solidarity.

After meeting with the CSD, Taylor was then directed to the SGA and has since been working with them to accomplish his goal, along with members of the LGBTQ+ student organizations on campus.

“I met with each of the LGBTQ+ student organizations (Queer Student Union, In The Life, Pride Mentor Program, SpeakOut Speakers Bureau, and Gender Blur) to ask for their support on this initiative,” he said. “All five of the student organizations wrote letters to the admin stating why a Pride flag would benefit TU as a whole.”

But after various emails and in-person meetings between Taylor and University administrators, the University decided not to allow the Pride flag to be flown on campus.

Junior Philip Taylor and other members of Towson’s LGBTQ+ community advocated for a Pride flag to be flown between the Liberal Arts Building and Burdick Hall.

According to Senior Director of Communications and Media Relations Ray Feldmann, TU currently only displays the flags of the United States, Maryland, Towson University, and countries where international students are from — the latter of which are rotated throughout the semester.

Feldmann said Towson “has no plans to display any additional flags around identities on campus” but that the University “remains strongly committed to the relentless pursuit of a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus for each and every member of the TU community.”

Feldmann added that students are still allowed to incorporate the Pride flag into their own programs and events.

However, Taylor is not satisfied with the University’s current stance on the establishment of a permanent Pride flag.

“The University needs to be able to have a moral backbone to stand up and say ‘no’ to any organizations who wish to fly oppressive flags,” Taylor said. “A Pride flag is a symbol of unity and liberation. Any opposing side would be actively working to oppress marginalized identities.”

Taylor is determined to gain the University’s support for the establishment of a Pride flag as a way of giving queer students at TU “the visibility and representation that they are so greatly lacking at this university,” he said.

“I am queer, and I will say that Towson University does not feel completely inclusive to my identity,” Taylor said. “This university needs to do more. Yes, TU has student organizations and support services for LGBTQ+ students, but our campus and administration can and should do so much more. Establishing a Pride flag shows the ultimate support that the University not only stands with you, but also embraces you for who you are.”

In The Life co-event coordinator John Patterson said that having a Pride flag would be a physical symbol of Towson University’s commitment to its LGBTQ+ students in creating an environment in which students can safely and openly express their identities.

“Having a rainbow flag on campus would mean the world to so many Towson students,” Patterson said. “Flying a rainbow flag, especially one with the black and brown stripe, would be such a great way to show the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and those in the community who are looking at this campus, that this is a place for all of us. A place where we can come and be our full authentic selves.”

Patterson added that a Pride flag would allow LGBTQ+ students to feel represented on campus, and to know that there are other people who can help them at Towson.

“Having this kind of representation is so necessary because it helps us know that we’re not alone,” he said. “And that if we need help, Towson is a place that is willing to help us.”

SGA Director of Communications Katie McClanahan said the SGA is in full support of having a permanent Pride flag on campus. While the University has denied the flag request, McClanahan said the SGA will continue to support Towson’s LGBTQ+ community.

“Towson University should strive to support LGBTQ+ students and provide them with a space where they feel safe and included,” McClanahan said. “This starts with a permanent Pride flag. We want to see safe spaces fostered on campus, and a Pride flag would represent our commitment to inclusivity.”

In addition to providing general support to the LGBTQ+ community, Towson’s SGA has also planned and funded its first ever Pride Fest.

According to McClanahan, the festival will be full of events starting in the beginning of March. Pride Fest will officially begin with an opening ceremony on March 8, and the closing ceremony will be on March 15 at 12:30 p.m. in Freedom Square “where we will have speakers (including student leaders) pledge their support of the LGBTQ+ community at Towson,” McClanahan said.

Taylor is on the planning committee for TU Pride Fest and is hoping to see a great unity between all students despite their differences.

“I expect this week to be a great celebration to honor TU’s underrepresented queer community and I hope it continues to grow every semester/year,” Taylor said. “Finally, I want for this week to be an educational experience not only for TU students but also for the administration. I hope that people are challenged by Pride week to learn something about the LGBTQ community and to possibly break down possible stigmas or internalized homophobia that they may hold.”

McClanahan said Pride Fest will be an opportunity for Towson students to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community.

“The goal for Pride Fest is to increase queer visibility on campus, educate students about the LGBTQ+ community and make queer students feel safer on our campus,” McClanahan said. “Pride Fest will improve our sense of community here at Towson. We look forward to collaborating with students and administration alike to make our Pride Fest the best yet.”

Taylor said that if the Towson community unites, they can make TU inclusive together.

“Unity is so important when fighting the issues that we do on campus,” Taylor said. “I believe that if we all could come together as one united power we could accomplish anything and make TU the inclusive institution that it claims to be.”

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