The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

'A matter of equal treatment': ASO hosts sit-in to demand business school action

Screen Shot 2023-09-24 at 10.54.06 PM.jpeg

Members of the Arab Student Organization gathered at the steps of Wilson Library on Sept. 21 to advocate for the Kenan-Flagler Business School to hang a Palestinian flag alongside its other country of origin flags.
Photo Courtesy of ASO

On the afternoon of Sept. 21, the Arab Student Organization held a sit-in on the steps of Wilson Library in protest.

The students were advocating for one particular goal — to see Kenan-Flagler Business School hang a Palestinian flag in front of the McColl Building, accompanying dozens of others. 

What began as a small handful of students at 1 p.m. gradually increased as dozens joined the group outside the library. They remained there until the sit-in ended at 3 p.m. 

Many participants waved small Palestinian flags, and others carried signs, one of which read “Recognize All Students.”

In a letter posted on Instagram on Sept. 19, ASO President Malak Dridi and Vice President Salma Hakam addressed their demand to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Kenan-Flagler Dean Mary Margaret Frank, Vice Provost of Equity and Inclusion Leah Cox and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Amy Johnson.

According to a 2019 Facebook post, the business school changes the flags yearly to represent the nationalities of all current Kenan-Flagler students. 

According to the letter from the ASO, the Palestinian flag has been excluded from this tradition, despite there being current Palestinian business school students and graduates.

Dridi said the ASO began relaying their concerns about the lack of Palestinian representation among the flags to the chancellor’s office and to the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion in November 2021. Dridi and two other board members met in person with Guskiewicz in March 2022, and she met with the chancellor a second time in April 2022, she said.

Despite being told that the chancellor's office would follow up with the organization after the April meeting, Dridi said the ASO was not contacted further about the issue.

“At this point, it’s just a matter of equal treatment,” Dridi said. “There's Palestinian students at UNC, that's a fact, there's Palestinian students who graduated from Kenan-Flagler Business School, that's a fact, and they deserve to be celebrated to the equal extent of their other peers.” 

Dridi and Hakam wrote in the letter that the sit-in was necessary because the ASO had “exhausted all other channels of advocacy.” 

“I joined ASO the second semester of my freshman year and we were in the works of this, and now I’m a junior, and so, it’s been a little crazy to think that it’s been happening for so long,” said Hakam.

Dridi’s sentiment was echoed by another member of ASO who participated in the sit-in and remained anonymous out of fear of the risks associated with advocating for Palestinian representation. 

“It’s important that we have representation across all disciplines of our school,” the student said.

In addition to seeing the Palestinian flag hung by the business school, the letter demanded that the business school issue an apology for the delay in hanging the flag. 

The ASO also clarified that they wanted the flag to hang beside the “other flags of national origin,” and not among the business school’s affiliation flags.

The affiliation flags are a smaller group of symbols currently hanging outside of Koury Auditorium. They represent affinity groups linked to the business school, including the LGBTQ+ pride flag and the Lumbee Tribe flag.

A student and member of the ASO, who attended the sit-in and requested anonymity, said they were disappointed when they found out about the exclusion of the Palestinian flag and is frustrated by the issue. 

“Coming into UNC, and honestly, expecting this campus to be welcoming and representing of my culture and my background, I was honestly disappointed when I found out about this,” they said. 

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Looking ahead, Dridi said the ASO will keep advocating for the business school to hang the Palestinian flag by continuing to hold sit-ins.

“At this point, there’s no tiring us out," Dridi said. "We’re not gonna stop until this flag is hung up."

Hakam noted the importance of student represention.

“This isn’t a political issue,” said Hakam. “We’re not saying anything about any events or anything like that, we’re literally just saying that the students here deserve representation, and that includes Palestinian students.”

In a Sept. 27 letter sent to Dridi and Hakam in response, Kenan-Flagler Dean Mary Margaret Frank said there are no students “who identify as being from Palestine” currently enrolled in the business school. 

"We fly flags that represent the home countries of only our current students, not alumni," Frank said.

Even if there were Palestinian students in the school, Frank said in the letter, the business school’s policy “would have precluded hanging the flag because Palestine is not recognized by the U.S. as an independent state.”

Dridi said in a text that the ASO “plans to continue their work advocating for the Palestinian flag to be hung up at the business school.”

@dailytarheel |

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023

More in Student Life

More in University