On February 3, 2012, a letter to the editor was published questioning Roanoke College’s decision to fly the Palestinian flag on the Back Quad.Â In particular this letter suggested that by flying the flag the College had endorsed a “specific political cause” and recognized “Palestine as a nation”.
The College flies these flags to recognize our students!
It is Roanoke College tradition that five flags are flown on the Back Quad of campus.Â The flags include the United States flag, the Commonwealth of Virginia flag, the Roanoke College flag, and the Lutheran Seal flag.Â The fifth flag rotates regularly among the flags of our current international students. Â The purpose is to acknowledge and celebrate the students who come to us from around the world and the many contributions they make to the campus community.
The display of the Palestinian flag is not a political statement and is a practice that can be found at many public and private institutions of higher education around the country. Virginia Tech and Washington & Lee University are just two of the many institutions in our region that regularly display the Palestinian flag. It is intended as a welcoming and inclusive gesture and is just one way that “the College strives to be a diverse community, nationally and internationally” (Roanoke College Statement of Purpose).
There are many controversial issues associated with the recognition of Palestine as an official state, and we encourage our campus community to engage in civil discourse to explore and debate these issues. Such discourse could take the form of class discussions, panel presentations, open forums or even your own letter to the editor. At the same time, as responsible citizens within the academic community we have an obligation to inform and educate ourselves on the facts of the situation and participate in this discourse with mutual respect for all members of our campus community.
We are committed as a college to affirming and learning from the members of our community.Â Flying the flags of our international students is one important and symbolic way to recognize the international members of our community.Â Â Â We are equally committed to learning from one another at Roanoke.Â Learning about the views and values of all members of the college community is one of the best opportunities of a Roanoke College experience.Â Hopefully our flags remind us of the rich resources for learning available to all Maroons.
Eugene L. Zdziarski, II, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students