A week ago, on the eve of Veterans Day, Brown University’s Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs prepared for our annual ceremony honoring veterans by lining the walkways on the College Green with American flags.
I was appalled to learn the next day that these flags had been vandalized, apparently by a group of Brown students. In a communication to the campus earlier this week, I shared my sadness with the Brown campus community about the vandalism of these flags, among other elements of recent divisiveness that are not true to Brown’s values. Initially, it was unclear exactly what had happened to the flags and how many people were involved in the incident. I have since learned that a large number of flags were removed and left lying on the ground next to where they had been planted, and some had been torn from their stakes or had their stakes broken.
The investigation of this incident indicates that the vandalism was the work of a small number of Brown students acting individually. Although Brown’s policy is to keep the results of disciplinary matters confidential, I want to be very clear that these acts of vandalism are a violation of Brown’s Code of Student Conduct, and students found responsible for code violations are subject to sanctions.
I was so proud to learn that a group of Brown students quickly came together to replant and guard the flags and summon Brown’s Department of Public Safety. The flags were removed for the evening, to prevent further harm, but by the beginning of the Veterans Day ceremony they were restored to their proper places, still with a group of student volunteers keeping watch over them.
Brown University is home to a growing number of student veterans and ROTC students. They are valued members of our community, and I am saddened that this incident made them feel disrespected by some of their classmates. I am confident that the actions of a small number of students do not represent the views of more than 9,000 students who study at Brown.
I value my participation in the Veterans Day ceremony each year and am happy to have seen the numbers of attendees from across campus who come together to honor our veterans grow over time. At the ceremony this year, I noted Brown’s pride in having re-established Naval and Air Force ROTC, so that we can educate a greater number of future military leaders. And of those who have already served, I said and find it important to repeat here, that whether to protect the values and way of life we cherish, defend those unable to defend themselves, or advance peace and justice in the world, Brown veterans have truly distinguished themselves and made our University proud.
Christina Paxson, President