St. Edward’s Students Protest After School Removes Pride Flag From Coffee Shop

Students rally at St. Edward’s (Photo by Naina Srivastava)

After attending a private Christian high school in Houston, Indigo Lane promised they would commit to a college that accepted the LGBTQ+ community and where Lane could openly express their identity.

Lane, now a junior at St. Edward’s, said they always felt supported by the community. Then, last summer, administrators took down a pride flag that had been hanging at a campus coffee shop since 2018.

“When they took the pride flag down, I broke that promise to myself,” Lane said.

Lane and hundreds of other St. Edward’s community members gathered in a peaceful protest on Tuesday from 10am to 6pm, before marching to the university’s Fine Arts building while chanting “bring the flag back.” There, students installed 1,000 pride flags.

Students stuck 1,000 flags into the grass (Photo by Naina Srivastava)

“We’ve garnered the community together and showed that there are other people that are here for them and that we can create our own safe space if we have to,” said senior Zachary Benoit, who helped organize the protest.

Benoit and other students said they’re frustrated with the administration’s response. Last week, President Montserrat Fuentes and Vice President for Student Affairs and Administration Lisa Kirkpatrick answered questions at a Student Government Senate meeting. Students were not allowed to record or document the meeting and Hilltop Views, St. Edward’s student newspaper, was barred from covering it.

In an email sent to students on Monday, the university said a new pride flag was hung in the Equity Hall Lounge alongside “existing flags and other symbols” shortly after the removal of the pride flag from Meadows Coffeehouse.

“This was done with a desire to respect the many identities, cultural backgrounds, nationalities and faith traditions within our community and to not elevate one over another and provide support in an equitable manner to all members of our community,” the email said.

The flag’s old location made it visible to students and faculty who used the coffee shop space as well as prospective touring students, junior Anna Southern said. Now, she said, it’s hidden. “So many people chose to come to this university because of that flag,” Southern said. “So then, taking it down and moving it to the farthest place on campus is an erasure.”

Junior Mackenna Bierschenk created the Instagram account @wheredidtheprideflaggo, which features over 45 student testimonials and resources. Bierschenk said she created the account because it was public knowledge that the pride flag was removed, but it was unclear why. She also made an online petition that has garnered over 700 signatures.

Bierschenk said this could have been a chance for St. Edward’s to step up into the spotlight and show support for the LGBTQ+ community following the enactment of Senate Bill 17, which bans diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at state universities like UT.

“I was expecting to be let down by the Texas legislature,” Bierschenk said. “I wasn’t expecting to be let down by the university I loved.”