An International Representative Weighs In

Section D’s International Rep gives his take on his own section’s flag raising ceremony, HBS’s policy toward raising flags, and internationalism in general.

As International Rep for Section D, I organized our Flag raising ceremony in mid-November.ÿ ÿCompared to what I have heard from other sections, our ceremony went off quite smoothly and was well received by most people in the section.ÿ All students, even those with American passports but with heritage from elsewhere, were allowed to pick the one flag that best represented them.ÿ We hung the flags in the classroom and then had a wonderful ceremony over lunch where representatives from each country presented some fun facts about their nation.

I was very sad to hear that some sections could not share this experience because of some controversial flag choices.ÿI think our section’s event went off well, because I made an early decision to adamantly stick to the HBS recommended policy of only allowing flags recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).ÿ As a result, I was able to hang up flags for China, Taiwan (Olympic version) and Hong Kong without any undue controversies.

I recognize that the Administration’s recommended policy to follow the IOC list can be too restrictive, not capturing many nations or states.ÿ However, I also believe that when dealing with a politically sensitive issue such as national flags, it is useful to have some basic rules or guidelines in place. ÿI had to be very dogmatic in refusing to hang up the Texas State or EU flags because I knew that hanging them could be controversial and may open up Pandora’s box with section-mates asking for even more controversial flags.ÿ Having a pre-defined guideline (IOC flags only) set by the Administration helped me deflect any controversial requests.

At the end of the day, I can sympathize with students from Tibet & Taiwan that want to have their proper national flags up.ÿ However, when an entire section has to miss out what should be a fun cultural exchange because of a few controversial choices, I see the value of sticking to the guidelines.

January 20, 2009
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