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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Stolen pride flags result in demonstrations

Stolen+pride+flags+result+in+demonstrations

Students gather outside of Raub Sellow in protest. (Rob Nguyen/TKS).

Students gather outside of Raub Sellow in protest. (Rob Nguyen/TKS).

BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students held demonstrations in the Quads for two consecutive days after two pride flags were stolen, released new demands for administration.

Student-led demonstrations late last month sparked conversation throughout Knox’s community about campus culture, the upcoming presidential election and diversity and inclusion on campus – especially when it comes to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students, LGBTQ+ students and the intersections of the two.
Here are brief summaries of those events.

Monday, September 28

Freshman Abigail King saw a Trump flag through the window, hanging on a closet inside one of the dorms on the first floor of the Raub-Sellew building.

“I’d never noticed this until one of my friends pointed it out,” King said, “and I was like, ‘If he can have a Trump flag there, then I can put a Pride flag down there.’”

With that thought in mind, King bought two Pride flags and hung the first on the windowsill of the dorm room in the courtyard with the understanding that it would likely be taken. While King was at dinner, the first flag was taken, and by the time she returned to the Quads, the Trump flag had been moved from the closet to be displayed in the window.

King said she placed her second flag in the rocks outside of the dorm room window and went to a tutoring session. At one point, King said her friends told her the flag was kicked down. They put it up on the windowsill, and King joined them at the table in the courtyard. Minutes later, a student came out of the building, took the flag and went back inside. 

King and her friends have a grainy Snapchat video of a male student snatching the flag from the windowsill, wadding it up in his hand and heading back inside the building while King’s friends run after him yelling for him to put the flag back and that they have him on video.
She says her friends were outraged and pushed her to report the incident to Campus Safety.

King filed a police report about the stolen flags with Galesburg Police Department Officer Kwan Cheuk on October 1, three days after the flags were stolen. According to the police report, King said she “just wanted to get her flags back from the person who took them if possible. 

King said that she feels that people who have heard about the stolen flags have different intentions than she originally did when she put the flags in the courtyard. 
“I knew they were going to be stolen,” King said. “I did not care if they were stolen. I just wanted to put them down.”

Anne Ehrlich, Vice President for Student Development, could not speak to specific actions being taken against any student or students who were said to be a part of this incident due to confidentiality, but said that there were violations of the Knox code of conduct and the student or students involved would have to face consequences for those behaviors.

A copy of the police report King filed about the stolen flags says the incident is being handled internally by Campus Safety. Dan Robinson, Associate Director of Campus Safety, declined to comment on the ongoing investigation. The student named in the police report has not responded to TKS’s attempts to reach him for comment.

Tuesday, September 29

By Tuesday evening, news of a stolen pride flag had spread across campus and students began to notice two Trump flags and “TRUMP” written in sticky notes in three of the windows on the first floor of Raub-Sellew.

Around 6:30 that evening, senior Ikenna Ozor, the Raub-Sellew 1 Resident Assistant, noticed that students began to gather in the courtyard outside of the Raub-Sellew building. Ozor says that the group was playing music, but the interaction seemed calm at first. 
Eleanor Burmeister, Director of Campus Life and one of the two staff members on duty that night, was called to the building briefly because people inside and outside of the building were blasting music. Burmeister only stayed for a few minutes because, at that point, everything seemed to be good-natured and no policies were being broken.

Ozor said that demonstrators outside of the Raub-Sellew building, students in Sellew 1 and students in Raub 2 were all blasting music. Ozor and a group of RAs told the three groups to turn the music down and the groups complied. Ozor said that the demonstration then turned into an open dialogue.

BIPOC students, who did not respond to emails asking for interviews, gathered again the next day and gave a different story. Speakers at the demonstration on Wednesday said an argument had broken out on Tuesday night which included hate speech toward Black students.

Wednesday, September 30

Wednesday afternoon, a group of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students gathered in the courtyard outside of the Raub-Sellew building for a sit-in in front of the windows that displayed Trump flags and pro-Trump messages. Some faculty and staff members came to the demonstration to watch and listen to speakers including Ehrlich and Tianna Cervantez, Executive Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Speakers, including Junior Monica Cardoza and sophomores Isaiah Simon and Manny Pina, talked about the events of the past two days, what the Trump flags represent to them and issued new demands to the college. After an initial conversation with the faculty and staff members in attendance, they sat in front of the windows that displayed the Trump flags and “TRUMP” sticky notes and held 15 minutes of silence. 

Once the 15 minutes of silence ended, the students leading the demonstration opened the floor for other students to speak. BIPOC students spoke about why Trump flags are a symbol of hate to them and why campus feels like an unsafe space for many groups of students when Trump flags are prominently displayed. Larger issues of racial justice and equity on campus were also brought up. 

A total of 33 students had joined the sit-in by its conclusion. 

Brianna Goodwin ‘08 sent TKS screenshots of a list of demands that she said the leaders of the demonstration released. The demands were sent to Knox administration who are working to meet them and will not release them without consent from all of the students who sent them according to Ehrlich and Cervantez. Myla Boyd, junior and president of A.B.L.E, confirmed that these were the demands sent to administrators.

The demands, as quoted from the screenshots, are:

“We demand that the students who displayed hate speech :

  • Take down Trump flags from windows. As stated previously, these flags represent hate speech that we have heard from these people, it is not freedom of speech.

  • Are immediately terminated from their perspective sports teams (if applicable).

  • Have their scholarships revoked and redistributed to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

  • Participate in trainings on concepts of race, sexuality, gender identity and sexual assault. And not only go through these training sessions, but also participate in dialogues about these issues.

We also demand that :

  • Intercultural life peer educators hold a conversation with the students that have hung Trump flags and the students that have spread hate speech on campus with others that were there to organize and take up space.

  • Knox significantly expands scholarship and funding opportunities for undocumented students/DACA recipients (prioritizing BIPOC).

  • The race discussion requirement of FP, as demanded in the Spring, be re-evaluated with PAID STUDENT feedback, and quickly re-shaped.

  • An investigation is conducted on the Knox Athletics Department for failing to protect BIPOC LGBTQ+ students, failing to adequately prevent sexual assault, and additionally for censoring Black student athletes from engaging in activism around Black life and using their positions on teams to silence them. Many Black student athletes feel alienated when trying to bring up issues of Black life within the department, and consequently never feel like truly part of the team.

  • All staff in the Athletics Department undergo additional LGBTQ+, BIPOC-centered Sexual Assault training.

  • That any and all relationships the Title IX office has with any other department be officially and entirely disbanded, including that with the Athletics department, as to prevent and end unfair protectionism.

  • The athletic department will examine its own culture that they currently uphold and will implement solutions to develop a culture that upholds BIPOC and LGBTQIA students.

  • That Knox includes and PAYS LGBTQ+ BIPOC students in all decision making processes.”

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  • A

    anna belleAug 22, 2022 at 12:21 am

    I don’t know if anyone reads these anymore but here I go.
    I am an alum who was still a student at the time of these events. Although at the time i did not think much of it, recently I was reminded of this and am quite bothered by a couple events that took place during this entire debacle. I have my critiques organized somewhat by what I expect from college, students rights, King’s actions to the situation, and the protests afterwards.

    COLLEGE’s ROLE TO US__________________________________________________

    Before I start , I would like to say quickly my view on college. For me, college is roughly a place where students are encouraged to enter ‘learning zones’ , a place that allows for challenging situations in a controlled environment to ease students from a transition from traditional school life to more independent adult life. In doing so, students will be equipped with managing challenges after graduation, due to the experiences during their college time. From what I remember, the student leadership course and the tutor course were one way that strongly pushed these points, as did club sensitivity training and so on.

    A STUDENT’S RIGHT____________________________________________________

    My first contention involves the Trump flag in question. From I am willing to guess, most students are free to have whatever they want in their rooms that do not violate school policy, and political beliefs and items short of radical extremes, for example nazi related content. Although I may simply just be desensitized due to the long term exposure to Trump rhetoric and his followers, a single Trump flag should not be an item that is so extremely triggering to the point of protest and blowup that this entire situation became. Some time after the event of the article, the college, through an email, did state that students are indeed within their rights to have Trump supporting signs within their residence halls. Instead, this should have been handled more privately, and maybe could even have spawned discussion about being peers with people of different ideologies. By creating a situation where students cannot deal with people holding trump flags,a huge disservice is done to students and can be very harmful for graduates who will have to deal with such scenarios outside the safety and regulation of a college institution. Unless things have changed drastically, there is literally a house about 2 blocks away that has a huge Trump flag on its front fence. Currently, the US has reached a point where a large portion of the population is still pro Trump, recent polls still show about half of republican voters support Trump. Taking from my previous paragraph, the college did not act in ways that would help students deal with such situations, and took a ‘ comfort zone’ approach to the issue as opposed to the ‘learning zone’ approach. Although this is simply my conjecture, I assume that all this did was further exacerbate the issue, as the student’s contempt grew on both sides after the fact, and everything was simply swept under the rug.

    KING____________________________________________________________________

    King’s involvement in the situation felt very problematic to me. The first actions of King, putting up the pride flags, feel at best a naive attempt to change a somewhat hateful message into a more liberal, peaceful one and at worst passive aggressive banter or malicious bullying and vandalism for popularity points ( in a similar vein of Twitter “ratio ing” ). I do not know King’s relation to Pride, but this seemed like an attempt to weaponize Pride as a means to instigate a hostile reaction. A good faith best case scenario interpretation of her actions are a sort of ‘ fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me’ situation, where she at first put a flag up ignorant of consequences, and then did it again, this time in a negligent manner with the hope of spreading a message of acceptance all peoples. Worst case scenario, she put the flags up knowing the consequences for both scenarios, a double surprised Pikachu face scenario, which is exactly what happened, according to the article and her own telling of the story “I knew they were going to be stolen… I did not care if they were stolen. I just wanted to put them down”. Additionally, her thought process of ‘If he can have a Trump flag there, then I can put a Pride flag down there.’ is extremely problematic, as the student had his flag up in the privacy of his own dorm room, regardless of the fact that it was visible from the outside. Meanwhile King’s actions, in a very hyperbolic way, could be attributed as vandalism, invading and defacing someone’s personal living space with the added effect of hiding behind and weaponizing a widely accepted, supported and, ironically, peaceful/accepting movement within the college, effectively hijacking all that the PRIDE flag stands for. (An example of a more removed scenario of vandalism could be that if someone were to put hearts stickers all over the side of your own home, regardless of its messaging, it can still be interpreted as defacing , therefore vandalism, I am not saying in any way that the pride flag is vandalistic).

    The student that stole and took down the flags did indeed steal and take them down, but I personally feel as though King’s motivations for recording the video were not to actually ‘ catch the thief red handed’ , but rather as an attempt to sensationalize the situation and to pose as a victim. This interpretation is somewhat based on conjecture and is not in the best faith, but given King’s thought process up until then as documented by the article, I believe it is reasonable. Although King’s initial behavior does not exonerate the other student’s actions of stealing the flags, it is by no means a justification to then victimize herself. In my view, this is almost a textbook case of crybullying: a person who self-righteously harasses or intimidates others while playing the victim, especially of a perceived social injustice. She then filed a police report under the justification of ” just wanted to get her flags back from the person who took them if possible” ; to be fair, there is a chance that that action was more pushed onto her from her friends rather than an action she wished to take personally independent of her friends’ pressure, as the article mentioned her friends strongly suggested it to her. The theft of her items does make her a victim of theft specifically, but does not exonerate or excuse her from her other behavior. ( As an example, if person A walks up to another person B and mugs them, person A is guilty of mugging. However, if moments after, person A drives away and is hit by drunk driver C, A s now a victim of driver C’s action; being a victim and a perpetrator are not mutually exclusive if multiple violations involving you occur) It feels even more in bad taste since she specifically said “I knew they were going to be stolen, I did not care if they were stolen. I just wanted to put them down.” earlier, suggesting that she may have had other motivations for calling the police. Instigation in itself is not quite a crime or violation, but would be very colloquially deemed as a ‘ dick move/ asshole move’.
    The student who stole the flags has been punished to an extent the school deemed fair, but I believe King holds some degree of responsibility for the escalation of the manner as well, and should have had some sort of punishment as well for her actions.
    I think I may be over explaining, but the point I see is: King saw something she viewed as wrong ( having a trump flag up) , so then responded with another wrong( putting up a pride flag outside his room with the thought process of “ well he’s doing it too “) , which subsequently let to a third wrong ( flags getting stolen). However, the whole time, the initial action by the student was right, and thus her actions were straight up an unprovoked wrong.

    Although I do find her behavior problematic, I am also aware that she was also a freshman ( aka glorified high schooler) so it should not be expected that she behave in the most correct manner etc, and this is in no way a hit piece, but it does frustrate me a little bit that she received no repercussions ( at least that I know of from the article). I know for a fact that I did not have the best choices my freshman year either, and that even now I could be very mistaken. However, bad actions should not be tolerated, and college is exactly the place where we should be taken accountable in situations in a way that we can learn and continue from our experiences.
    That is all on King.

    RESULTING PROTEST, ADMINISTRATION________________________________________

    The protest was managed quite well, as the students kept a certain distance from the student’s dorm, and did so peacefully without escalating the situation. I also strongly commend Ozor and the other RA’s actions in the situation; they made sure things stayed civil and peaceful, while also stepping in when things got a bit too rowdy. I do think, however, that this situation was somewhat abused by the administration as well, as according to the article, no one stood up for the student’s right and additionally, said nothing about the student demands. Once again, I am bringing up some conjecture, but the flag student seemed to be used as a scapegoat by the administration to have students blow steam in the direction of the student as opposed to the administration directly for their poor leadership, management of the college, and the handling of the then occurring issue. The administration should have been somewhat transparent about the student demands: they should have put a strong stance to protect the students right of expression by explaining and rejecting the admittedly wild claims to have Trump supporter students stripped of their scholarships and, implicitly, their livelihoods whilst attending Knox, explained in at least some detail plans to further create protections for students experiencing harassment based on protected class issues and such. Given the demands from the students, a look into Knox athletics or some sort of statement from Knox athletics about their situation regarding hateful behavior could have been welcomed as well. Overall, this situation would have been a great opportunity for Knox to more strongly express boundaries of the student code, and implications and complexities involved with it, such that a situation like this no longer occurs.

    That is the end of my unhinged rant on this situation. From my experience, this sort of behavior is proliferating much more, and that we should look into and hold all parties accountable regardless of which side of the aisle we stand on. As Knox students and alumni, we are taught to be understanding and empathetic to our peers and others; we should be able to disagree without strongly pointing fingers or playing partisan games, treating all as we would like to be treated, all the more important in times of disagreement and dissent. My information may not be perfect, as most of my info is from the article, the subsequent email, and my own conjecture on the situation, please correct me if I am blatantly wrong somewhere.
    No hate to anyone involved in the situation, including King, Ozor, the flag student, the flag theif student, any and all the students from the protest , or the author of the article.

    Admin tho, get rekt, noone likes u 🙂

    Also Biden is Based, getting stuff passed thru legislation instead of EO’ing everything , gigachad

    Thank you,
    A troubled alum

    Reply
  • M

    Mel P.Jan 1, 2021 at 7:00 am

    Good job at speaking up against racism, homophobia and xenophobia!! My daughter is a student her and I’m proud of her participation in this protest. THESE voices are the future!

    Reply
  • J

    Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.Nov 12, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    Four. More. Years.

    Reply