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.
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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.”
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