Wadham students object to “nationalist” and “offensive” Union Jack

Several students at Wadham College have expressed concern over the College’s decision to fly the Union Jack last week.

The College flew the flag from its main flagpole on April 21st of this year to commemorate the Queen’s birthday, and also on November 11th to mark Armistice Day. The flag has provoked anger from some students, who have criticised the decision as a “nationalist” statement, “offensive” to the victims of British Imperialism.

History fresher Peter Morgan brought a protest motion to Sunday evening’s Student Union meeting, in which he urged students to fly the Soviet Flag to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender to the Soviet armies.

The motion was, according to Morgan, an attempt to “draw attention to the current national flag-waving policy at Wadham”. The SU is likely to consider a motion condemning the flag-flying at its next meeting.

Morgan told The Oxford Student: “I have no objection to flying the British flag as an act of commemoration in itself. I have relatives who died at the Somme. My objection is to the inconsistent application of the moral reasoning drawn along national lines.”

He went onto to claim that his Soviet Flag motion was designed to address the “moral hypocrisy” of the College’s “nationalist” flag waving, and “provoke explicit support for its abolition”.

Morgan also noted the “manifold moral outrages committed under the Union Flag”, such as the Peterloo Massacre and the “systematic neglect” of famine-victims in Ireland, and he expressed doubt as to whether they “can be divorced from the banner on these moments of remembrance”.

Other Wadham students expressed similar anger. Second-year student Ailbhe Rea said the flag has become “associated with a particularly nasty strain of English nationalism”, and expressed discomfort with the flag “being flown over Wadham as a symbol of our community’s values”.

English student Niamh McIntyre tweeted: “Can’t [believe] Wadham is flying Union Jack for Queen’s bday, so embarrassing.”

Several colleges recently flew the St George’s flag to celebrate St George’s Day.

Some students at the Wadham SU meeting criticised the manner in which Morgan’s protest had been made, with one drawing attention to the “mass sexual violence” of the Nazi-Soviet war, described as the “greatest mass rape in history”.

Not all students criticised the Union Jack. One second-year undergraduate, not at Wadham, described the anger as “ridiculous” and “hilariously Wadham”.

“Apparently flying the flag of our country is racist now,” they commented, “these students are so absurdly cut-off from the real world it’s almost funny”.

These students are so absurdly cut-off from the real world it’s almost funny

Another student, who wished not to be named, noted the “undeniable class dimension” of the outrage: “Let’s face it, Wadham’s overwhelmingly middle-class student population can’t understand why their (working class) porters have such a silly attachment to a piece of cloth. The snobbery inherent in this classic student ‘outrage’ is clear to see. This is Emily Thornberry laughing at white-van-man all over again. Some people are patriotic, they need to get over that.”

Wadham College was not available for comment.

PHOTO: Norman Walsh