30 of Cambridge’s Colleges displayed flags for some or all of FebruaryAmy Howell

In an email seen by Varsity, Jesus College instructed its students yesterday (01/03) to remove all flags, provoking backlash due to the requirement to remove LGBTQ+ flags as part of this wider announcement.

The email asked “that all flags and banners be removed from windows and buildings today [01/03]” given “the end of this time of commemoration”, in reference to LGBT History Month celebrations which took place throughout February across the University and Colleges.

Joe Shaughnessy, a PhD student at Jesus, told CambridgeshireLive: “As a queer student at the college it leaves a sour taste in my mouth that taking down LGBTQ+ flags is on anyone’s agenda full stop - let alone during a pandemic where college support is otherwise largely not forthcoming apparently because of strapped time and resources.”

Throughout February, 30 Cambridge colleges, as well as the University Library and the Old Schools Site, flew an LGBT+ flag for LGBT History Month. Magdalene was the only college not flying a flag, which was the result of a broken flagpole, Magdalene JCR previously told Varsity.

A spokesperson for Jesus College defended the decision, saying that they allowed students to display pride flags during February by “waiv[ing] the section of a standard room license agreement which prohibits any flags to be flown for safety and maintenance reasons.”

The spokesperson continued: “Jesus College is very supportive of LGBT+ History Month and other LGBT+ events and initiatives throughout the year”, and that while they hope students “enjoyed being able to show their solidarity during this month…[they] were reminded that flags needed to be taken down.”

CambridgeshireLive reported that, according to a clarification email sent by the postgraduate President at Jesus, the contractual reasoning given by the College “may be updated in the future.”

They added that Jesus has a “flag working party” with student representatives from the Jesus College Student Union (JCSU) and its MCR, which recently met “to discuss other ways students can visibly support causes that are important to them throughout the year.”

A JCSU spokesperson told Varsity that they were “pleased” by the College’s display of solidarity during LGBT+ history month, with a number of pride flags being displayed across the College.

The spokesperson told Varsity that the JCSU is working towards changes to the College’s licence agreement “that states no flag can be flown whatsoever,” alongside campaigning for the transgender pride flag to be flown by the College during transgender awareness week in November.


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Colleges fly pride flag as Cambridge celebrates LGBT+ History Month

They added: “We hope to see an updated licence agreement ready for the start of the next academic year, which includes a provision for flag flying from inside a student property.

This also comes as the Cambridge SU launched its Care+ campaign last month to improve support for LGBTQ+ students across the University.

A spokesperson for Jesus College told Varsity: “Last year, Jesus took the lead among colleges in establishing a dedicated LGBT+ Welfare Tutor.

“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 SU’s Care+ campaign.”

Alongside this, lgbtq+@cam released their first report - ‘Out at Cambridge’ - at the beginning of LGBT+ History Month last month: the study found that proactive messages of support increased “a sense of being included, welcomed, accepted and safe,” and listed demonstrations of support such as the use of rainbow flags, pronouns in email signatures, and academic and social events related to LGBT+ topics and students.

The study concluded that “it is not only desirable but essential” that students and staff at the University have “the ability to be out and to disclose without fear of reprisal, in an environment that is seen to be accepting of diversity.”

This article was updated on Wednesday (03/03) with further comment from Jesus College and to specify the details of the email sent to students.