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Cambridge university threatens to evict students for hanging Pride flags and ‘climate posters’ in their windows

Emma Powys Maurice April 23, 2021
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Jesus College Cambridge

Jesus College in Cambridge University (/Heritage Images/Getty)

A Cambridge university college has threatened its students with eviction if they refuse to remove flags, including LGBT+ Pride flags, from their windows.

Jesus College ordered students to take down all flags left hanging in or outside college properties after LGBT+ History Month in March.

The warning also applies to other decorations, including Labour and “climate justice” posters, but “LGBTQ+ flags and banners” were specifically singled out. Students are ordinarily prohibited from flying any flags for “safety and maintenance reasons”, but this rule was waived for March. However, the abruptness was described as leaving a “sour taste” in the mouths of queer students.

Students subsequently received an email threatening them with eviction if they didn’t remove the offending items.

“As you are aware, it is a breach of the terms of your licence agreement to display any poster, flag, or banner internally or externally from the property,” read the email, seen by the Telegraph.

“I must ask you to please remove this item by Thursday, 22 April. The college will take further action if you fail to put right the breach, which could ultimately result in the licence agreement being terminated.”

Aurelio Petrucci, a former president of the Jesus College Students’ Union, described the move as “truly awful” and questioned whether it was legal.

“By threatening to evict students for exercising their basic right to self-expression, all this will do is add to the stress and anxiety students are already feeling about the pandemic and their exams,” he said.

“Being able to criticise institutions, express one’s identity and political beliefs are the core features of British academia. [This is] now being trampled by coercion and threats of homelessness/eviction by a Cambridge college.”

He said the college needs to reconsider its ultimatum immediately and apologise for forcing students into this position.

“I can only hope that they start to listen to the student union and stop trying to curtail our right to free speech and free expression of our identities,” he added.

Jesus College said it made the threat of eviction after warning students about the issue twice this month.

A spokesperson for the college noted that the rules on displaying any flags, banners or posters are “a long-standing clause in our license agreement”.

“We encourage all community members to express themselves and their views, as long as it doesn’t break their license agreement or the law,” they said. “We have asked that everyone living in college accommodation abides by the agreement they signed.

“We have informed students that we will run an in-depth consultation this term with students, fellows and staff about the most inventive and creative ways to enable this in college for the benefit of the whole community.”

A college spokesperson added: “Jesus College is very supportive of LGBT+ History Month and other LGBTQ+ events and initiatives throughout the year. The rainbow flag has been flown from our main flagpole to signal the start of the month and to show public solidarity for several years.

“The College offers a wide range of LGBTQ+ welfare support. Last year, Jesus took the lead among Cambridge colleges in establishing a dedicated LGBTQ+ Welfare Tutor. College tutors and student representatives collaborate to highlight support and resources for LGBTQ+ students and allies in editions of our Welfare Bulletin, which is sent to all students every few weeks in term time.

“We also promote the excellent LGBTQ+ welfare support available via our student unions, and look forward to engaging in opportunities for learning and collaboration through the University Student Union’s Care+ campaign.”

 

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