Despite flag ceremony, the Jamaican flag has yet to be put back

Students holding their flags proudly during the flag ceremony held in Strebel on November 17, 2022.

Mickale Thompson

Students holding their flags proudly during the flag ceremony held in Strebel on November 17, 2022.

Mickale Thompson, Features Editor

Many didn’t realize that the Jamaican national flag was taken down inside Strebel Student Center. The removal left some feeling slighted and caused many to question the reasoning. This led to a series of events which included a flag ceremony organized by The Office of International Education. However, despite the ceremony the flag has not been put back. 

About 50 people ranging from students, faculty, and staff celebrated International Student Week and participated in the flag ceremony on Nov. 17. Eight students walked from White Hall to the second floor of Strebel Student Center carrying their respective flags.

The students were greeted with cheer as they came down the steps of Strebel, walking proudly representing their native countries.

Madealyn Frankovic holds the national flags of Rwanda and Sri Lanka, Sebastian Szuminski carries the flag of Poland, and Vasyl Yurkuts and Antwan Kelly hold the flags of Ukraine and Jamaica respectively as they walk along the pathway to Strebel. (Mickale Thompson)

The national anthem of each country played throughout the student center as the eight flags were presented. Each attending member stood for the national anthem of Poland, Uganda, Jamaica, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Georgia and Rwanda respectively. The students stood next to each other as they awaited their time to speak about their country and also share some of their cultural perspectives since coming to the United States and Utica.

Students, faculty, and staff resume
sitting after the national anthem of Poland is played in the Strebel student center. (Mickale Thompson)

Madealyn Frankovic, a graduate assistant in the Office of International Education, played a key role in organizing the flag ceremony. She said it was important to have the event because it is a way to include anyone who wants to be represented and share information about their country.

“It was just important to showcase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our university because it is present and sometimes hard to recognize these things because there are numerous events that support that,” Frankovic said. “Marketing it enough to bring people to the event was a way I could make sure that everyone was represented the way they wanted to and had the opportunity to say what they needed to say in a place that was safe.”

Each student shared some of the things that drew them to Utica University and what they learned since being here. For Frankovic, it became more than just an event and more about representing the office, the school, and the students.

“I think the biggest component that was really touching to me was hearing the students speak about their country and experiences,” Frankovic said. “Also seeing the amount of people that came up to support it was mind-blowing to me. Being able to give as many people the opportunity to speak about their experience, country, and their culture and bring people to celebrate that diversity is important to me”

Apart from organizing the event Frankovic also took part in the flag ceremony by walking with the flag of Rwanda in honor of her friend and colleague Dunali Wanasinghe who was unable to attend.

“At first I didn’t realize how important it was going to be, but when I was at the flag ceremony,” Frankovic said. “I was like wow I’m representing the Rwandan flag. It holds that much importance even though that connection is not directly to me. So I wanted to make sure that honor and importance was relied on from Dunali through me to the audience.”

Assoc. Provost/Dean- Graduate Studies Daniel Kratochvil stands in the back as Graduate Assistant Madealyn Frankovic gives her speech on the behalf of her friend Dunali Wanasinghe as the flag Rwanda hangs over the podium. (Mickale Thompson)

Wanasinghe once told her a story that made representing her at the ceremony more meaningful.

Frankovic said. “She told me how when she visited Utica with her parents she didn’t see her flag and she told her parents that I’m going to be one to do that,” Frankovic said. “That was really powerful to me so I was really happy to be able to do that for her.”

Director of Business Development Elizabeth Nassar gave the opening remarks at the ceremony and said she was grateful for the experience.

“Everything that drives me is about the student experience,” Nassar said. “I wanted students to feel like they can come and they are being heard and someone is going to advocate for them.”

According to Nassar, the policy of how flags are organized and displayed is put into three tiers that cater to different aspects.

 

Tier one: This gives preferences to students who are pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree. These students can either be citizens or have dual citizenship.

Tier Two: This is for scholars who are at the university for one semester in which their flag is put up the term that they are at the institution.

Tier Three: This is for countries where the schools have study abroad programs that are used to encourage students to study abroad.

Undergrad and graduate students pursuing degrees who are dual citizens and can make a case as to why a flag is important to them will have their flag displayed first. This is the policy Nasser said is being used at the moment.

Antwan Kelly said he was “heartbroken” when finding out the Jamaican flag was removed and said that it made him feel a feeling of despair and all he knew was he was going to do anything to get it back up.

Kelly attended the flag ceremony not only to participate but to represent his country, something he said meant the world to him.

“The opportunity to have the chance to represent my country was just a fantastic opportunity,” Kelly said. “I feel like the opportunity to speak on behalf of my country, saying what it means to me, was an opportunity that not everyone gets the chance to do.”

Antwan Kelly approaches the Strebel student center walking proudly with the Jamaican flag. (Mickale Thompson)

For Kelly, having students represent their countries, and their cultures bring to light a different element when it comes to how important it is to have these ceremonies.

However, despite the ceremony, the Jamaican flag is yet to be put up. This Kelly said is an issue he intends to follow up on.

“Even though we had this huge ceremony, the flag still isn’t up for some reason,” Kelly said. “I didn’t understand the delay, but I know the flag should be up soon because I’ll make sure I bring the issue up until my country’s flag gets put up.”

Click through the gallery to see the photos in better quality.