In order to save campus groups money, alleviate the workload of Buildings and Grounds staffers and preserve the historical integrity of one of the campus’s most striking facades, the Dean’s Office decided this summer to prohibit campus groups from displaying banners on Chapin. Instead organizations will be encouraged to hang their banners on Baxter Hall.
While all of these reasons make sense and serve as valid explanations for the policy change, the Dean’s Office has failed to respond adequately to the most significant objection to the shift. Leaders of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered Union (BGLTU), the campus organization which has used Chapin to display its banners more than any other, has voiced several criticisms of the altered policy. Specifically, they noted that the banners will not be not as visible on Baxter as they were on Chapin and that Baxter lacks the prominence (both of location and history) of Chapin. Leaders of the organization also allege that the administration may be discriminating against the BGLTU. Dena Zaldua ‘98, a former leader of the BGLTU, suggested that the explanations of the Dean’s Office may be “made-up” reasons.
Assistant Dean Wanda Lee explained that the Dean’s Office did not specifically target the BGLTU when making the decision. And Dean of the College Peter Murphy said he values the contributions of the BGLTU to campus discourse, and hopes the change in policy will facilitate the displaying of banners for all groups. Dean Lee has worked with leaders of the BGLTU over the past couple of months to address concerns over the new arrangement.
However, the Dean’s Office should have allowed the BGLTU to have more of a voice in any proposed change in policy before the decision was made.Preserving the historical integrity of Chapin seems fairly empty and meaningless as a justification for the revised policy. In fact, two years ago the College covered West, the most historic faÃ§ade on campus, with overbearing red, white and blue banners apparently intended to celebrate the very history they obscured. Furthermore, if the BGLTU does not mind paying the extra costs of hanging the banners on Chapin, there seems to be no more significant reason for the change in policy other than personal preference.
While it seems unlikely that the Dean’s Office deliberately intended to disappoint the BGLTU, it clearly could have made a more substantial effort to consult with the leaders of the BGLTU when making the decision. The Dean’s Office may have had the best intentions in shifting the location of the banners, but a dearth in communication during the planning stage has soured the whole incident.