University of Vermont

Letter to Campus Community Regarding the Black Lives Matter Flag

Black lives matter flag at the Davis Center

The following memo was sent to the campus community this morning from Annie Stevens, vice provost for student affairs, regarding the Black Lives Matter flag at the Davis Center:

The University of Vermont has a long-standing flag procedure that covers the use of the flagpole by the Davis Center designated for special events and activities. The procedure articulates the approval process.

The Davis Center, over many years, has flown flags to celebrate and support members of the University community. The individual flags must be sponsored by a University group or organization. The Davis Center has worked with groups who seek to teach and support the principles of equal justice and community building: from the Rainbow flag to celebrate marriage equality and later to support our community following the targeted shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando; to the national flag of China to celebrate the arrival of the first students from China; to the new national flag to celebrate the forming of South Sudan as a new country; to the flag of Haiti following the natural disaster that destroyed much of their country.

In that spirit, the Student Government Association, (SGA) sponsored last week a Black Lives Matter flag to fly over the weekend to recognize the recent police shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte. The student leadership of SGA wished to express its understanding and support of people in the Black community and others who are suffering due to recent shootings. Related to these issues, a student-led campus gathering will be held this afternoon.

The University of Vermont, as an educational institution, vigorously supports freedom of inquiry and expression within the academic community and promotes a welcoming, safe and inclusive environment for all members of our community. With these twin goals in mind, the flag was displayed in accordance with University established procedures. First Amendment freedoms protect speech and ideas, including controversial ideas, differing perspectives, and contentious viewpoints.

To accomplish our educational goals and mission, the University actively seeks an environment that appropriately reconciles free speech and academic freedom on the one hand and the maintenance of a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for all members of the University community on the other hand. By promoting and encouraging dialogue and conversations, the result can lead to better understanding and education about difficult issues.