Campus Involvement and Leadership office removes unauthorized LGBTQ+ pride flag display


Levi Huizenga

According to several social work students, Calvin’s treatment of LGBTQ+ students and staff is at the heart of their struggle

Staff from the office of Campus Involvement and Leadership removed more than 1,000 LGBTQ+ pride flags from Commons Lawn on Friday morning. A self-organized group of approximately 20 students, motivated by recent controversy surrounding the Center for Social Research’s split from the university, placed the flags about two hours prior, according to members of the group.

The students who placed the flags admittedly did not have CIL’s permission to do so. CIL is responsible for approving student-organized posters and events on campus.

When addressing student organizers, J.B. Britton, associate dean for CIL, cited the lack of approval but also repeatedly mentioned the fact that Friday was an admitted student visit day.

“Not every conversation like this is appropriate to have on a visit day,” said Britton. According to Britton, the presence of prospective students is taken into consideration when approving dates for sensitive demonstrations.

J.B. Britton, associate dean for Campus Involvement and Leadership, stands behind a box of unauthorized flags removed from Commons Lawn. (Harm Venhuizen)

Britton declined to respond to questions from Chimes reporters after removing the flags.

“I supported the people putting the flags out, and it deeply hurt. It kind of sends the message that queer people aren’t welcome here,” said Angela Blinne, a student present for Britton’s address to the organizers.

Britton and two students removed the flags. One of those students was a CIL employee. The other was the leader of an unchartered, conservative student organization who volunteered to help while passing by.

Student organizers understood that their event wasn’t authorized, and some even expected it to be removed, but members of the group were upset by the second student’s involvement.

Britton addresses a group of concerned students, some of whom organized the display. (Harm Venhuizen)

“I’m fine with CIL people taking them down, but I think it’s completely inappropriate for leaders of far-right groups to be taking them down,” said Isaac Seiler, one of the lead organizers of the display. “I just think that’s needlessly political and trying to cause trouble, really.”

LGBTQ+ issues have taken center stage on campus since Chimes reporting revealed that the university’s policies against same-sex marriage played a role in the CSR’s separation.

Last March, at the same location, CIL disbanded another unapproved student demonstration, which took a stance against same-sex relationships and orientation. On March 9, 2021, members of a conservative, on-campus Bible study set up a table with a sign reading “LGBTQ is sin. The Bible says. Change my mind,” sparking outrage from affirming students and prompting a sit-in on Commons Lawn.

Friday’s display was not accompanied by a written statement.

Conversations about human sexuality and university policy are ongoing. Chimes will continue to cover the situation as it unfolds.

LGBTQ+ issues are a topic of hot debate at Calvin, where employment policies prohibit same-sex marriages. (Abigail Ham)