Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

College Removes Palestinian Flag from Tennis Courts

Alissa Berman
A Facilities Worker removes a Palestinian flag hanging on the Tennis Courts.
A Facilities Worker removes a Palestinian flag hanging on the Tennis Courts. (Alissa Berman)

In the afternoon of Oct. 31, Whitman Facilities Staff, some of whom were wearing Whitman Campus Security sweaters, removed a crocheted Palestinian flag hanging from the Whitman Tennis Courts. The flag had been hanging for roughly a week prior to its removal. 

Senior Alissa Berman, head of communications for Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine, was sitting outside of Penrose Library when, she says, she saw two Whitman security guards taking down the crocheted flag that a member of SJP had anchored to the chain link fence surrounding the tennis courts.

Berman says that she and another member of WSJP asked the facilities workers what they were doing. 

According to Berman, the workers claimed “they had direct orders from the ‘tippy top of Mem’ to take down anything politically affiliated around campus.”

Three workers took the flag down despite Berman’s objections, though Berman says she was allowed to keep the flag. 

It was not immediately clear who had actually given the order for the flag to be taken down. 

According to Berman, the workers initially referred her to the Director of Facilities Services Tony Ichsan, who – they claimed – told them to take the flag down. 

Ichsan declined to comment, and referred The Wire to Dean of Students Kazi Joshua, whom he says is responsible for the flag being removed. 

In an emailed statement to The Wire, Joshua confirmed that the flag should not have been removed, but denied that there had been orders to remove political posters from campus.

“There is NO directive to remove posters that are political in nature. If posters do not conform to expectations articulated in “Buildings and Grounds” section of the “Student Rights and Responsibilities,” they may be removed. That was not the case with the Flag on the tennis courts as I stated in the meeting last night,” Joshua said.

The Building and Grounds Usage section of Whitman’s Student Handbook states simply that, “Signs may be attached to the tennis court fence.” Notably, there is no indication in the handbook that political signs or slogans are prohibited; flags are banned in clearly outlined contexts. 

Alongside other members of WSJP, Berman met with members of the administration, including Joshua, on the evening of Oct. 31st to discuss listserv based censorship WSJP claims they have experienced. 

At this meeting, Berman says Joshua apologized for the removal of the flag. Still, Berman expressed frustration at what she viewed as an ineffectual response by administration. 

“There was no discussion about how free speech needs to be allowed on this campus,” Berman said. “It feels ironic to make that apology in a meeting where we’re discussing other instances where free speech hasn’t been allowed on campus.” 

“We do have every right to put up political statements around campus,” Berman said.

For now, WSJP plans to put the flag back up.

“The purpose of a school is to be a space for speaking to each other – if the school doesn’t let us do that, how are we supposed to be engaging with each other?” Berman said.


Editor’s Note: Bex Heimbrock is a member of Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine.

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Comments (3)

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  • E

    Embarrassed AlumnNov 2, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    Thank goodness Whitman took the flag down! Whitman should keep it down.

    Bex – I see at the end of the article that you’re a member of WSJP. If you’re writing this article, why is it included in “news”? This should properly be called propaganda – that is, it should be included in “opinion.” Also, please see my comments to the 10/26 article on your protests. How do you answer those questions? Also, how is WSJP affiliated with the Palestinian Youth Movement, and how do you feel about its vision statement calling for the destruction of Israel? From their website (capitalization added): “We affirm that our struggle is deeply rooted in the Arab regional context that must be freed of neocolonialism IN ORDER FOR THE COMPLETE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE TO BECOME A TANGIBLE REALITY.” Where does PYM get its funding from? To coordinate events across hundreds of campuses with a slick, highly produced website takes a lot of money and resources. Is it actually a “youth” movement or is it a sophisticated activist organization with state and NGO funding designed to destabilize civil society? I think it’s quite telling that one cannot find any actual individual people listed on their website (just generic email addresses). How did WJSP get in touch with them to help coordinate the protest?

    • B

      Bex HeimbrockNov 2, 2023 at 9:15 pm

      Hi! Bex here, wanted to quickly clarify a few points:
      I am the Opinion Editor at the Wire, meaning that I am a member of the editorial board and as such have the experience and capability to objectively report on events. Before my work here, I wrote for a Tribune-Syndicated news company where I learned directly from editors at WSJ, who taught me to immensely respect journalistic ethics. It is precisely because of these ethics that I understood the need to disclose that, in my capacity as an individual student, I am a member of WSJP. However, this does not mean that in my capacity as a journalist, I am unable to remain objective surrounding such issues on campus. In fact, while working for the Tribune group, I frequently practiced objective reporting on issues that were impacting my community — thus finding ways to remain objective even when I was personally impacted by the object of my reporting.
      I want to note that I reached out to all appropriate parties, as per journalistic best practices, for statements/comments, and followed all appropriate guidelines. Furthermore, this article was edited and fact-checked by the Editor-In-Chief and Publisher — two sets of unbiased eyes.
      I think it is unfair to refer to student reporting on a small college where everyone is involved in a bit of everything as ‘propaganda.’ Conflicts of interest arise from time to time: this is the nature of journalism. Rather than pretending that humans can be fully unbiased, I think it is best to disclose potential conflicts of interest when appropriate and to always (always!) read with a critical eye.
      I hope in your own critical reading, you were able to notice things that either challenged or broadened your mindset — which is what journalism should do! If you have any further concerns, I invite you to reach out to me.
      Thank you for your time and readership of the Wire!

      • G

        GernNov 7, 2023 at 4:44 am

        The vapidity of the name “Whitman Students for Justice in Palestine” tells me almost everything I need to know about the author. That a serious person would join such a group is unconscionable.

        Have you defined what “justice for Palestine” would look like ?

        Have you even defined what “Palestine” means, what are it (or would be) its borders ?

        Would it involve Hamas retaining power in any way ?

        Is Hamas considered a legitimate political organization ?

        What would the role of the Israelis be in your version of Palestine ?

        I imagine you would be among the first to object to a Nazi flag being flown on campus. But, somehow this is different. The double standard in your writing (including other articles I have subsequently read) is appalling.

        I look forward to further articles wherein you whine about your student loan, and lack of employment prospects.