The campus at Bryn Mawr College isn’t exactly the type of place you’d expect to see students hanging the Confederate flag. But the women’s college has recently been embroiled in controversy after two students hung the stars and bars flag at a campus dorm, Radnor Hall, then taped out their own Mason-Dixon line in the hallway.
The flag was originally in a community area of the dorm, but then was moved to the students’ room, where it could be seen from outside. The school community received an email from dean Judy Balthazar earlier this month:
“Late last week, two students tacked a Confederate flag on the wall outside their dorm rooms and taped a ‘Mason Dixon line’ onto the carpet, both of which they removed when confronted by fellow students in leadership positions. We take pride in the fact that two institutions that lie at the core of our community — self-governance and the honor code — empowered our students to confront this issue. Nonetheless, this situation has sparked emotional reactions among many community members.”
Student unrest over the Confederate flag incident continued, especially after this email seems to have declared the incident over. Balthazar sent another email just two days after the first one apologizing:
“I am particularly sorry for the hurt caused by my failure to acknowledge the drawn-out nature of the situation and for the implication that this was a problem that students should resolve entirely on their own. And I especially regret the continued distress caused by the prolonged visibility of the flag.”
On the 19th, students rallied for a more thorough discussion of race on campus at Bryn Mawr.
— Meera (@meera_jay) September 19, 2014
Radnor Hall residents, including the students who put up the flag, eventually met with a mediator. “The whole time they essentially did not apologize for it … they just feigned ignorance,” Swarthmore student Michelle Lee said. “They were like, wait, what does the Mason-Dixon line mean? We didn’t get that this would mean such a horrible thing to you people. Their apology was just not a real apology.”
The Bi-College News — the school newspaper of Haverford and Bryn Mawr — reports there is talk of revising the school’s honor code to “include a more thorough anti-discrimination policy.” Per Fire.org, the school already has a speech code in place that would punish the hanging of the confederate flag. The code reads: “We recognize that acts of discrimination and harassment, including, but not limited to, acts of racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, and discrimination against religious and political minorities are devoid of respect and therefore, by definition, violate this Code.”
People interviewed by the Bi-College News seem to believe Bryn Mawr students have turned the situation into a catalyst for debate and change. “Honestly, I have never been more proud to be a Mawrter,” one told the paper. “We took our outrage, anger, and pain and transformed it into something positive.” Personally, I am happy to learn Bryn Mawr students call themselves “Mawrter.” I hope it’s pronounced like “martyr”!