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Controversy over Pride flag at Queen’s College

The Provost ruled against a majority vote to fly the flag for the entire month, before reversing his decision.

There has been significant disagreement between staff at Queen’s College over the decision of the college to fly an LGBTQ+ rainbow flag in recognition of LGBTQ+ History Month, after the college Provost, Professor Paul Madden, opposed the move.

In a meeting on the 13th February, which was attended by representatives from the JCR and MCR and a number of college fellows, the Governing Body passed the unreserved motion to raise the flag for the remainder of the month with a vote of 18-3.

The vote came after the Provost had excused himself from debate on the matter.

However, Cherwell understands from sources present at the meeting that, following the vote, the Provost ruled against the majority, instructing that the flag not be raised for more than the originally planned one week.

No statement has yet been given to explain this decision.

Upon the Provost’s overruling of the vote, Cherwell understands that a fellow left the session in protest at the decision, not returning for the duration of the meeting.

A few days later, an email was sent to the JCR President and Vice President by the Dean, informing them of a change of college policy, stating that the flag would fly for the month as a whole.

When contacted for comment, the Provost did not offer any explanation of his decision. Both the Senior Tutor and Dean also declined to comment personally.

Speaking to Cherwell, a spokesperson for the college said: “As has been customary for a number of years, instruction was given by the Provost to fly the rainbow Flag in the first week of February.

“After it was taken down, the Provost received representations that, in view of the observation that it had become customary among the colleges for the flag to be flown throughout February, the College’s position seemed anomalous.

“He therefore reviewed the decision and gave the instruction that the flag should fly for the whole month and it was remounted on the morning of Thursday 14th February.”

The decision stands in the context of the fact that all other colleges on the high street have flown the rainbow flag for at least a week in February, with many flying it for the whole month.

The disagreement comes just a couple of weeks after Cherwell’s revelation that more than 100 serving Oxford clergy have signed a petition opposing a call by local bishops for “an attitude of inclusion and respect for LGBTQ+ people,” with staff from two Oxford colleges among the signatories.

Responding to the issue, Queen’s JCR President Ebrubaoghene Abel-Unokan said: “The original decision not to fly the LGBTQ+ flag for the entirety of LGBTQ+ history month was, in my opinion, an oversight by the College. It was an anachronism from the College’s past that does not reflect our varied and inclusive community of students and staff or acknowledge and value the contributions they make to the life of the College.

“It is a de facto tradition for the LGBTQ+ rep of our JCR to request that the College fly the flag for the entire month, and I’m incredibly pleased to see that this year Florence Darwen was successful in lobbying the College to change its policy.

“I’d also to thank the Senior Tutor, Nicholas Owen, and the Dean, Chris O’Callaghan for the roles they played in securing the change.

“The JCR has always championed progressive political beliefs, and I would like to think that this is but one step in the consolidation of those views into the College’s practices.

“I have little doubt that this will continue as Queen’s welcomes Dr Claire Craig CBE later this year, who will be the first woman in the College’s history to hold the position of Provost.”

Oxford University LGBTQ+ Society told Cherwell: “While we haven’t been contacted directly by Queen’s students regarding this issue, and are therefore uncertain about the nuances of this particular situation, we as a Society strongly encourage colleges to fly the LGBTQ+ Flag for the duration of pride month.

“It is an important symbol of tolerance and acceptance, which promotes the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ students.

“It is extremely disappointing when college officials do not understand the value of celebrating their LGBTQ+ students and sending a welcoming message to potential applicants.

“We run a campaign service to help students enact change in their colleges, and would strongly encourage Queen’s students to get in touch with us, with the aim of improving provisions for LGBTQ+ students by rectifying this issue.”

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