In recognition of LGBT+ history month in the UK, UEA is flying the pride rainbow flag on a selection of dates throughout February.
In 2017, LGBT history month is focusing on issues surrounding Citizenship; Personal, Social and Health Education and Law; and the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales.
UEA’s Vice Chancellor David Richardson stated online that staff and students will be able to see the flag raised over Registry Building on the 1st, 6th, 13th, 20th, and 28th of February, to commemorate LGBT+ history and show solidarity with UEA’s LGBT+ community.
The university’s decision to fly the pride flag marks a change in the university’s approach. Previously, in January 2013, the university caused controversy among students when it refused to fly the pride flag for LGBT+ history month, and in July 2015, the university did not fly the flag despite ongoing pride celebrations in Norwich.
The university flew the flag for the first time during the 2016 Pride celebrations in the city.
The university based its previous refusals on the principle that it does not fly flags other than the official UEA flag, unless it is to mark a royal visit. Theo Antoniou-Phillips, UEA SU’s LGBT+ officer at the time, called this policy “offensive”, stating that “being LGBT+ is not equivalent to being a member of club or society.” The current LGBT+ officers say they view the university’s decision to fly the flag as welcome progress.
SU LGBT+ Officer (Open Place) Sharmin Hoque said, “Given we’ve been waiting for 50 years for the flag to be flown, this is amazing progress.
“We’re really pleased that the VC is working so closely with us and we appreciate the effort that the university is making on our behalf,” she added.
However, she told Concrete that “until the flag is flown every day of LGBT+ History month, there will still room for improvement.”
At the beginning of the month, SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo tweeted: “It would be nice to have a University who is proud to fly the LGBT+ flag for 28 days as well tho @UEA_VC”
Regarding the wider relationship between UEA’s LGBT+ community and the university’s Vice Chancellor,
SU LGBT+ Officer (Trans Place) Lee Brown said “We’re glad to have open communication with the vice chancellor.” He said that it was assuring “to know that the Vice Chancellor is ready and willing to listen, so if LGBT+ students have any issues that they would like taken forward, do let us know!”
In response to criticism that not flying the pride flag continually sends the wrong message, Brown said, “We have to remember that even when progress is small it is another great step – especially when it comes to representing minority groups.”