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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

College removes student flags in recent policy enforcement

Safety and Security removed flags — including the LGBTQ+ pride flag, the flag of Palestine and the Israeli flag — from outside student windows.

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Updated (March 29, 12:52 a.m.): Following publication, additional students came forward to share their experiences with the College’s flag policy. College spokesperson Jana Barnello also shared an additional statement on the policy’s origin and enforcement. The article and sub-head have been updated to incorporate this new information.

Safety and Security officers removed an LGBTQ+ pride flag from outside a window at the Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority in early March, according to EKT house manager Natalie Halsey ’25. 

Halsey said EKT members were initially unaware that the flag had been removed by Safety and Security and instead assumed that it had blown away after it disappeared. Members later learned about the removal through an email from Safety and Security, Halsey said. 

“We weren’t asked to take [the flag] down,” Halsey said. “It was just taken down.”

Safety and Security recently removed unapproved flags from the outside of residential buildings during “routine enforcement” of the Display of Objects from College Buildings policy, according to an email statement from College spokesperson Jana Barnello. 

According to the Student Handbook, the Display of Objects from College Buildings policy — which has been in effect since 2015 — prohibits the display of “flags, banners, signs and other objects” from College-owned buildings “without prior approval from the associate vice president for facilities, operations and management,” currently Frank Roberts.

In an updated statement to The Dartmouth, Barnello wrote that “one of the driving reasons” for the establishment of the policy was to ensure that Dartmouth remained “consistent” with section 715 of the Hanover Zoning Ordinance. 

The section outlines spatial and time regulations for the display of banners and signs in Hanover. Barnello wrote that section 715 “was being modified at the time” the College enacted the policy in 2015. 

According to Barnello, the recent use of the policy was part of “routine enforcement.” Barnello added that a student contacted the College after his flag was removed to point out other violations on campus.

“During routine enforcement already underway, one student, upon the removal of the flag from a window, noted that they’d seen several flags displayed outside windows in various locations, but with no mention of any specific kinds of flags,” she wrote. “The student believed those flags should also be removed to be consistent with the policy. Our response was that we are addressing all potential violations of the policy.”

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Oren Poleshuck-Kinel ’26 shared that he reported flag violations on campus after Safety and Security removed his Israeli flag on March 8. While Barnello did not provide the name of the student who came forward to report the flags, Poleshuck-Kinel said Barnello’s statement to The Dartmouth likely refers to his complaint. The Dartmouth could not independently verify Poleshuck-Kinel’s claim.

Barnello wrote that “objects displayed inside windows of residential buildings are permitted” as long as “they do not create safety issues,” adding that the flags removed by Safety and Security ranged from national flags to ones depicting cartoon characters.

Yasmine Marrero ’27 — who has been displaying a Palestine flag from the inside of her dorm window since the fall of 2023 — confirmed that she has never heard from the College about her flag or the policy. 

Roberts and Safety and Security director Keiselim Montás did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

EKT programming manager Jamie Liu ’25 — who resides in the room from which the pride flag was removed — said she received an email from Safety and Security on March 9 informing her that the flag was taken down for violating campus policy. The email stated that the removal of the flag was part of a “campus-wide effort” to enforce the Student Handbook rule.

Liu said it was likely that Safety and Security officers entered her room, which was locked, after she left campus for spring break to take the flag down. She explained that the flag’s high position on the EKT building would have made it difficult to otherwise access.

“Usually if [the College] has to do [construction or inspection] to our house … they always go to the house manager of EKT and say that they have to enter a room at a specific time,” Liu said. “But this time they did not send any heads-up before they went into my room to take the flag.”

Both Halsey and Liu said they remember the flag being displayed outside the EKT building in past years, and neither was aware of any previous communications from the College regarding the flag or the 2015 policy. 

“I did not know this policy existed,” Liu said. “I honestly have no idea when [the policy started].”

Safety and Security also removed a Palestine flag from the outside of Roan Wade ’25’s Gold Coast residence hall window earlier in March, according to Wade. 

Wade said the flag was removed from outside their window “about a week” into their participation in a hunger strike protesting the College’s approach to the Israel-Hamas War. Wade was previously arrested this past fall while protesting in front of Parkhurst Hall, according to past reporting by The Dartmouth.

“I come back to my dorm and it’s locked,” Wade said. “[Safety and Security] let me in eventually, and basically my Palestine flag is just folded up on my bed. They [printed] out the policy, and they left it there.”

Wade added that Safety and Security officers did not communicate with them before removing the flag.

“They just came straight into my room, removed the flag and left a note on my bed,” they said.

Wade said they first hung the flag up during the spring of 2023 and continued to display it in different residence halls without any prior reaction from the College. Wade said they questioned the timing of the flag removal, given its enforcement during the hunger strike.

“[The flag] hadn’t been an issue before at any other dorm location I was in, but they decided to enforce this during the hunger strike, which I felt was intentional,” Wade said. 

Paul Yang ’23 said Safety and Security officers also visited his room in a Gold Coast residence hall in early March and told him to remove the Palestine flag outside his window. 

“One day I was in my dorm, and a [Safety and Security] officer came by, and he was just banging on my door,” Yang said. “When I opened my door, he was just saying, ‘We are cracking down on every student who has some kind of display on their windows … He handed me this paper with the College policies and just told me to take down the flag.”

Yang said the officer told him that the policy’s enforcement had “nothing to do with what kind of display it is.”

Kevin Engel ’27, who was arrested alongside Wade in October, said they had two run-ins with Safety and Security over the display of their Palestine flag in the fall of 2023. Engel said they had initially taped the top of the flag to their window and let the bottom part of the flag blow loosely. 

After a couple weeks, a Safety and Security officer went into Engel’s room and secured the bottom part of the flag into the window so that it would not fly freely, according to Engel. After securing the flag, Safety and Security left a business card with a note that read, “Remove flag.”

The second incident occurred “a couple days” after Engel unpinned the bottom of the flag from the window, allowing it to blow freely again, according to Engel. 

“There were two [Safety and Security] officers [outside my door], and they were telling me [that] I had to remove my flag,” Engel said. 

Engel, Halsey, Liu, Wade and Yang all said they did not receive information about how to obtain the “approval” mentioned in the policy after Safety and Security removed their flags. 

Halsey said she was “surprised” that Safety and Security removed EKT’s flag without first reaching out to house members about the policy, given how long the flag had been displayed. 

“The fact that [the flag] just kind of disappeared one day and then we got an email about it later is frustrating, because it seems that [the College] wasn’t transparent… that they were going to start enforcing [the policy] now,” Halsey said. 

Halsey added that she was also surprised that the College removed an LGBTQ+ pride flag. 

“EKT’s mission is basically about pride and having an inclusive, accepting space, which is something that I think that Dartmouth administration would want to… support,” Halsey said. 

Wade said they believe the policy is “a way of policing free speech” on campus.

“If I’m paying a lot of money and rent to live in this dorm building, I should be able to voice my opinion and use my access to space to voice dissent,” Wade said. “I think there’s a lot of policing of space and of visuals on campus. Everything feels like it has to align with the Dartmouth style guide.”

Some students affected by the policy, however, reported a more positive experience with Safety and Security. Poleshuck-Kinel said his Israeli flag had been displayed for “a few weeks” before it was removed. 

“I received an email from [Safety and Security] that informed me they had knocked on my door,” Poleshuck-Kinel said. “When they found that I wasn’t in there, they had entered my room, removed my flag from my window and folded it and left a note saying what they did and why.”

Poleshuck-Kinel added that he emailed Safety and Security to ask what policy the flag violated and received a response “within ten minutes.”

“I found them to be very professional,” Poleshuck-Kinel said. “They handled it as best as they could.”

Poleshuck-Kinel said that he believes that the policy is “really important.”

“If a student hangs a Confederate flag, for example, it’s the same situation that … the College has to enforce [the policy] evenly,” Poleshuck-Kinel said.