That day, Coming Out Day, caused some concern in 2016, when we decided not to raise the rainbow flag of the LGBTI+ community. A student sounded the alarm and talked to Tim Hofman of the YouTube programme BOOS, after which the host came to discuss the situation with the Chairman of the Executive Board.
Ron Bormans: “We were sending an inclusive signal, not raising the flag then. Because our red flag is a symbol for a place where everyone is welcome. Everyone. So, we did not think it necessary to raise a separate flag. But the message did not come across well to everybody. People mostly noted that we had not raised the flag, an exclusive message. That got us thinking. Let’s do it differently. That’s why we have launched a
design competition. Students and employees can use their talent and intelligence to come up with a design that both represents the values of our red flag as well as the values of the rainbow flag. And as far as I’m concerned, it does necessarily need be a flag. The designers can be completely free in their design.”
The Chairman of the Executive Board emphasises that holding a design competition, is partly due to societal developments. “I am by far the oldest in the room”, he says to students who are busy taking notes. “When I graduated, I thought that the Netherlands was fully formed and clear in this regard: that this group was completely accepted. But in subsequent years this did not seem to be true. Even worse, hostility has increased and tolerance has decreased. For that reason I am of the opinion that we must support this community a bit extra. Everyone is welcome at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and can be who they want to be.”
The students do not hesitate to ask tough questions. “You said that in 2016 it was not possible to send the correct message. Why do you think it will work this time?”, was the first question during the press conference. Ron Bormans: “We were adamant at the time: we are only raising one flag. We are letting go of that certainty now. This allows the freedom for a design that will carry the right message.”
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One of the students reminds the group of an interview by Profielen, which reveals that 35 percent of students and employees are against raising the rainbow flag. And then asks the question whether Ron Bormans is taking this group into consideration. “I would like to discuss with this group why they are against the flag. I have noticed that there are different reasons. Some say simply ‘the design does not speak to them’. Others are of the opinion that our red flag already stands for everyone, and there should not be any other. Some people do not want others to get attention, but do want that for themselves. I am ready to hold a discussion with anyone of the opinions stated above.”
The flag is merely a symbol. That was the common denominator during the ‘press
conference’. What’s important is everything else around the flag. For example, the discussions held among students. With lecturers. With board members. “And in that case, it does not matter if there are differences sometimes”, according to Ron Bormans. “That leads to the best debates, as long as the participants respect each other.”
The 36 students attending the Minor Cross Medial Journalism are going to try and get published in the media on the subject of the flag, after having taken part in the ‘press conference’. And who knows, they may be inspired themselves to come up with a design. All students and employees of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences can get started designing. Designs are welcome up to and including 19 September. The winner will be announced on 27 September during Rotterdam Pride Week. On 11 October the new rainbow flag will fly high on the roof of this university of applied sciences. You can send in your design Via the link below.