The Australian Catholic University (ACU) is facing backlash after librarians were ordered to remove rainbow flags from public display across its campuses.
According to the Ally Network, a group of staff who promote an inclusive environment on campus, the incident first began during WorldPride.
Staff were allegedly asked via an email not to display rainbow flags and stickers across the institution’s multi-state campus libraries.
The request prompted fierce backlash from staff and students alike, resulting in a group of students penning an open-letter to ACU Vice-Chancellor Zlatko Skrbis, detailing that the request was a reflection that “LGTBIQ+ people are not welcome at your university.”
“When you and your representatives should have been promoting messages of celebration, you have decided to ban pride imagery and instead send a message that LGBTIQ+ people are not welcome at your university,” the letter read.
In the Vice-President’s responding letter, he claimed that the university was “based in the faith and traditions of the Catholic Church” but was “open to people of all faiths and circumstances”.
An ACU spokeswoman went on to clarify that the official flag policy of the university only recognised certain flags.
This policy does not, as she points out, include the rainbow flag, although, “Staff are free to display other flags at their offices or workstations if that is their personal decision.”
ACU staff speak out
Some of the staff, including Noah Riseman, an history professor at the unviersity and the ACU Ally Network co-convener, have come forth on social media to disavow the stance.
“I’ve worked at ACU for 15 years and this is only the 2nd time I’ve personally felt real homophobia from the institution,” Noah said, in a thread of tweets from his personal Twitter.
“It’s distressed me, my colleagues, and our #LGBTIQ+ students. The University is hiding behind its flags policy, but we know that is rubbish.”
“The edict to remove rainbow imagery came after an external stakeholder complained. The flags policy is about flying official flags on campus flagpoles,” he continues.
“It says nothing about other flags on display nor does it preclude other flags like rainbow flags.”
Staff to continue flying their pride flags
So what happens next? Noah seemingly has a pretty good idea:
“ACU’s response is that staff are free to do what they want in their personal spaces and how they express themselves, but in public spaces rainbow imagery is “not appropriate”,” he says.
“Well, I am not going back in the closet, nor are our #LGBTIQ+ students and staff.”
“I know our staff & students are better than this. We will not let senior executives’ prejudice silence #LGBTIQ+ students, staff & our allies,” Noah asserts.
“We will continue to be out & proud. And guess what? You’re going to see a lot more rainbows as we exercise our intellectual freedom. “
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