campus life

3 Albion College Students Burned The Rainbow Flag During Coming Out Week. Why Aren’t They Being Disciplined?

I’m not quite sure what “appropriate action” means, but Albion College in Michigan insists it took just that after confirming a rainbow flag was burned by students on campus. Apparently desecrating the fag flag yields no punishment.

Albion President Donna Randall won’t discuss specifics of the case citing privacy laws, but confirmed in a statement Campus Safety officers investigated the incident. And then …? And then told the three students it found responsible they wouldn’t face any punishment. While administrators won’t discuss the incident further (that includes Campus Safety director Ken Snyder), the students who burned the flag, interestingly, are speaking.

The “college doesn’t condone this action, and they know people will be upset but it wasn’t public, it wasn’t targeting one person and no one saw it happen,” explains one about why the trio didn’t face punishment. Adds another, who helped burn the flag Oct. 18 after Coming Out Week events on campus: “I am deeply sorry that I didn’t stop the incident from occurring in the first place, sorry to anyone who was affected by it.”

Know who was affected by it? All 1,800 students, plus every member of the faculty and staff. And that includes you too, Ms. Randall. Burning a symbol of an entire class of people is known around these parts as an intimidation tactic, and not punishing the students is an open invitation to see your quad riddled with burning crosses. Because who’s hurt by that?

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  • bob

    I’m sorry but why would or should they be punished for expressing their opinion? we may not like it and they may suffer some social ostracism by their peers, but they do have a right to be anti-gay. I certainly hope gay people are not going to become oppressors, like the homophobes.

  • Alex

    I don’t get it! Those students interviewed (the ones who burned the flag I take it…, the writing is somewhat confusing) don’t seem particularly homophobic..

  • Taylor Siluwé

    Gay people becoming the “oppressors”, Bob? Are you being satirical or just sadly dense?

    So, lets break this down. What good ever comes from desecrating a symbol of a people? Name a few instances, then maybe I’ll begin to understand your point.

    Pull your head out of your ass.

    Like the article said, it was an intentionally provocative act – a dog whistle to homo-haters everywhere because homos deserve no respect, it’s a tacit invitation to bully, discriminate, bash, and even KILL. And in a climate of heavy media coverage of bullying and suicides, it’s unconscionable that there was zero punishment.

    If they had burned the Bible or Quran or Torah or any flag representation of millions of people (except gay ones), the outrage would have been deafening and the punishment swift.

  • Michael

    Sure, it’s hateful, but in the eyes of the law, burning a gay pride flag is not a crime, no more so than burning a flag with a peace symbol, happy face, or the flag of our country, for that matter. Every attempt to make it a crime to burn the American flag has failed, including the last effort by Congress to amend the Constitution in 2006. You might nail these students with disorderly conduct or burning without a permit, but anything else is really just sour grapes over people exercising their First Amendment rights. This much, you already know.

  • Vast Variety

    They shouldn’t be punished any more than if they had burned an American flag. Burning the flag, any flag, is protected free speech.

  • Nope

    They couldn’t have desecrated the flag, because it is not sacred.

    What astonishing gay narcissism.

  • DR

    Texas v Johnson, USSCt (1989). Burning the American flag, however distasteful a statement people may find it, is protected under the First Amendment as “expressive conduct”. The Court specifically held that the US flag was not so venerable as to merit special protection under the law. Invalidated 48 laws.

    United States v. Eichman, USSCt (1990). Invalidated a federal law prohibiting desecration of the flag on the same grounds. (Said law was passed in response to the Johnson decision).

    Most recent attempt at the Federal Amendment… 2006, where it died in the Senate. (SJ Res 12 failed by one vote, June 27, 2006).

    There is no crime, this is protected speech.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    Burning the Bible is not a crime either. Still, most rational people know that its a heinous provocative act, deeply insulting to Christians worldwide.

    So screw the law, and ask yourself is it right? What was the intent?

  • DR

    @Taylor Siluwé:

    I would offer this as a caution…

    The same laws which protect acts like this protect our rights to assemble in Pride parades, student groups, and other ways.

    There’s a reason the ACLU is just as involved with us as the Phelps clan. The laws work both ways.

  • Taylor Siluwé

    Yes, sadly laws protect that inbred cult known as Westboro Baptist Church.

    However I believe they those laws need to be tweaked to prevent the type of disrespectful acts the cult is known for – like picketing funerals.

    Yes, its legal. Yes, its freedom of speech. And yes, this is still America. But its also unspeakably wrong and everyone knows it. It’s an action designed to cause already grieving people more pain. That’s shouldn’t be allowed. I doubt the founding fathers ever anticipated such odious behavior being condoned under that freedom.

    I can’t extrapolate how our PRIDE parade causing the likes of a Carl Paladino pain is anything remotely similar. Like cross burnings of old, burning a symbol of LGBT equality is meant to cause fear. I just don’t see how it should be shrugged off by the university – when it certainly wouldn’t had it been a cross.

  • Matthew Lucas

    Yeah I don’t believe they should have been punished either. Flag burning is legal. If you can burn the American flag (Consitutionally protected free speech) you should be able to burn the rainbow flag. It may be ignorant and hateful, but sadly there’s no law against that.

    @Taylor Burning the Bible would be provocative, but it’s legal. Just because it offends people doesn’t mean people should be punished for it. Then were do you stop?

  • Mike

    Burning the gay flag is technically is protected under the first amendment, if people can burn the american flag and get away with it, then people certainly can burn the gay flag without recourse.

    Gay people need to learn that people have their right to believe what they want, even if it makes us want to eat our emotions. It bears repeating, we want tolerance; not to shove our wants and beliefs down the world’s throat, that makes us just as bad as opponents to gay rights.

  • CHI79

    Again, more of Queerty’s whiny victimization mentality. Do you know anything about U.S. law? This is like the brutalized hall monitor who is always running to the principal b/c someone that he doesn’t like threw trash in the hallway. Yeah, its a stupid and classless thing to do, but A) its considered free speech, look it up and B) quit being such sad victimized pansies!

  • edgyguy1426

    I support the right of these asshats to be asshats.

  • Kyle

    As everyone has already stated, this is about freedom of speech. Yes, that same freedom of speech that allows sometimes provocative gay pride parades throughout our country.

    We can’t pick and choose freedom of speech. It must be for everyone at all times.

  • Michael

    Disciplined for what? Some kids burn flags, others carry flags in parades. You cannot get offended by laws that afford equal protection. Isn’t that the whole point?

  • Andreusz

    I agree with Kyle.

  • scott ny'er

    glad to see there is a consensus. And that flag burning is protected under the law. In a way, this story is important and needed to be posted just to remind and/or inform peeps what the law is.

  • DR

    @Taylor Siluwé:

    Where do your exceptions end? Anyone can come up with a multitude of reasons why Pride parades are offensive speech. Anyone can come up with reasons why GLB groups shouldn’t be allowed to picket at the Mormon church in Utah. Anything we do, someone can complain about.

    The best we can do is smile when the Courts note that while protected speech, it’s disgusting. And they do note that.

  • Travis

    They might have a right to free speech, but the doesn’t the college have the right to make it’s own policy on what conduct is allowed from students?

  • Taylor Siluwé

    No. 19 · DR

    I understand your point, and those of practically everyone on this thread. Free speech rules. I know. I get it. But just as my advocating some tweaking of “free speech” laws to be more along the lines of ‘your rights end at the tip of my nose’, I understand that’s its a slippery slope.

    What I’m saying is that free speech, when it incites negativity, is worrisome.

    It’s Bill O’Reilly’s free speech right to call Dr. George Tiller “Tiller the Baby Killer” endlessly on his FOX show. But in our fanatical world, is it so unexpected that someone ultimately took it upon his unhinged self to carry a gun into Dr. Tiller’s church and blow his brains out in the name of Jesus?

    The analogy that you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater needs to be updated to reflect our current, cyber-connected information age when a lone fanatic exercising free speech can illicit actually real-time violence.

    Of course, I agree, where would it end? Would suddenly my calling Maggie Gallagher “a stupid cow who just needs a little dick in her life” end with me in court after some loon actually rapes her?

    Possibly. I’m willing to take that chance. I’m willing to let the courts and juries parse my intentions and actually consequences. Bill O’Reilly should be facing that same jury right now.

    Back to the students burning the rainbow during Pride. I don’t want them kicked out of school, let alone arrested. However, the University should do something that implies they understand the gravity of the situation. That they understand the possible domino-effect of provocative acts, however unexpected. Maybe hold a student assembly where the offending students debate their actions with a local GSA or some such group. This would be a teachable moment for everybody.

    Something. Anything that says ACTIONS, even free speech protected ones, sometimes have unseemly and unwanted consequences.

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