Balliol college members have flown rainbow flags across the quad and library windows in an “act of peaceful resistance”, following the college’s decision to fly the LGBT pride flag a day earlier than planned.
Some students have claimed that the day was changed in order to avoid upsetting “wealthy donors” at an annual alumni dinner, an idea described by Balliol College authorities as “untrue” and “frankly silly”.
Balliol originally agreed to fly the rainbow flag from its college flagpole on Saturday, the final day of LGBT History Month.
However, college authorities shifted this to Friday, after realising that its original planned date clashed with the annual Snell Memorial Dinner.
The college claims it was important to have the Balliol flag flying instead during the dinner, as “many returning to the College appreciate seeing the flag they remember – that is a mark of respect to our alumni and guests.”
The student protest was described on Facebook as an “act of peaceful resistance” to the college’s decision.
An anonymous Balliol student commented: “The college claim they had to fly the College flag for the special Snell dinner, when in fact they just made a decision that this carried priority over the rainbow flag on the last day of the month.
“I would not be surprised if the College weren’t also motivated in their decision by a desire not to anger any of the wealthy donors with a display against heteronormativity.”
Balliol’s Domestic Bursar, Jo Roadknight, rejected these claims, telling The Oxford Student: “We discussed with the JCR the question of the flag, and they suggested we fly it instead on the 27th (which we did), and we took it down at 11am on the 28th. There is no question of ‘being ashamed’ of flying the flag – that is untrue and frankly silly.”
Roadknight added that the Snell Memorial dinner is “not a fundraising dinner”.
Balliol’s JCR President Duncan Shepherd also defended the college’s decision, claiming that “there was no attempt to silence LGBTQ voices.”
Shepherd commented: “The college fully supports flying the flag, but sadly this year there was a clash with an annual historic benefactor’s event, and because this was accidentally only realised late there was a great deal of confusion among the JCR, which led some students to hang flags out of windows. We will make sure there is no such misunderstanding in future.”
The issue of rainbow pride flags has provoked controversy across the University during LGBT History Month, with some students in Brasenose and Regent’s Park flying their own rainbow flags in order to protest college refusals to officially display the flags from their flagpoles.
Other colleges, including Wadham and Exeter, have flown rainbow flags for the whole month.