Three months after protesting a pro-law enforcement thin blue line flag on campus, students at Villanova University welcomed a Black Lives Matter flag in their student center.
The university’s Black Student Union raised the banner at the Connelly Center on Feb. 1 to mark the beginning of Black History Month. A large group of students, faculty and community members reportedly attended the event.
“This was an important milestone for the University to show members of the Black community on campus that they are in a safe place, and will be seen and heard,” the student newspaper The Villanovan reported on Feb. 8.
The hanging of a BLM flag on campus stands in contrast to a controversy in early November concerning a police officer carrying a thin blue line flag during Villanova’s 34th annual Fall Fest for Special Olympics.
The flag was present during the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the kick-off event for the Fall Fest on campus.
The Black Student Union responded to the incident after videos of the flag upset students, according to a statement posted on Instagram. They promised to “figure out next steps to ensure that something like this never happens again,” labeling the flag a “political display.”
Several days later, the Villanova Special Olympics released an open letter from the organization’s management team and DEI and awareness committee apologizing for the flag and promising to keep all future events apolitical without the flag.
“While this flag may mean different things to different people, the flag is a political statement that communicates a threatening and exclusionary message,” the letter stated. “The last thing we want is for anyone to feel excluded at an event focused on inclusion.”
“We recognize how this occurrence detracted from people’s experience with Fall Fest and we sincerely apologize for this. We will ensure that Fall Fest is focused on celebrating athletes rather than a place for political statements to be made.”
The Black Student Union statement and Villanova Special Olympics letter referred to the flag as a “Blue Lives Matter” flag, a misunderstanding that a local police officer corrected in a comment to the student newspaper in a Nov. 25 article.
Officer Christopher Four told The Villanovan that the flag was “not a Blue Lives Matter flag. It derives from the thin blue line, which has been around for decades and is associated with law enforcement as a group of individuals standing between order and chaos.”
Now, a Black Lives Matter flag hangs uncontested in the university’s student center about three months after students protested the thin blue line flag.
“The ceremony and the hanging of the Black Lives Matter banner was a meaningful and important event to Villanova’s community. The flag now hangs in the Connelly Center, one of the most popular places on campus, to show how much meaning it holds at Villanova,” The Villanovan reported.
Black Lives Matter movement is a controversial nonprofit group that critics contend is used as a political cudgel to advance democratic-socialist policies.
In a statement regarding the event featured in The Villanovan, the Black Student Union wrote about the significance of the flag that with its unveiling “our hope is for all individuals who are a part of the Black community at Villanova, understand that they are heard, seen, loved, and supported.”
“We also want the Black community to know that they will always have an organization who will work tirelessly to ensure that Villanova never falls short in those areas, while exemplifying our university’s core values: unitas, caritas, and veritas. But, more importantly we want those within the Black community at Villanova to know that you are important and your life does matter.”
In a statement to The College Fix, campus spokesman Jonathan Gust pointed out university leadership did not make the decision to protest or ban the thin blue line flag.
“The instance at the Special Olympics Fall Festival involved a banner brought onto campus by a third party, who did not request approval to carry the banner at this student-organized event,” he said via email.
With the Black Lives Matter banner in Connelly Center, “a student group initiated the process and followed the procedure for requesting approval for banners/posters on campus.”
IMAGE: The Villanovan screenshot; Inside — Shutterstock