PLANT CITY, Fla. – The Hillsborough Community College advisory council is done with the Pledge of Allegiance.
The pledge takes too long during its meetings, some members of the Institutional Advisory Council argued, while others believe it’s “inappropriate” in a college setting, WFLA reports.
“A heated discussion ensued between the IAC about the Pledge of Allegiance and its appropriateness in an institution of higher learning which fosters academic freedom and structured dissent against authority,” according to meeting minutes cited by the Tampa Bay Times.
“Some members expressed views that the Pledge made some people uncomfortable and that it violated their beliefs in academic freedom and the goals of the IAC.”
Hillsborough officials were not happy with the decision.
“We don’t support the decision that was made, and again, those minutes aren’t final,” HCC public relations director Ashley Carl told WFLA. “Dr. Atwater, our college president, will be going to our next IAC meeting and discussing the issue with them. We don’t support that decision.”
Carl also pointed out that the IAC’s decision impact the policies of six Campus Advisory Councils, which essentially negates the argument about academic freedoms.
“The administration is very disappointed that they would take an action that would prevent our campus councils from saying the pledge, if they deemed that’s what they would like to do,” Carl told the Times. “It’s an issue of freedom of speech.”
“Community colleges are an American institution,” she said. “We wouldn’t want somebody to feel like they didn’t have their voice represented if they chose to say the pledge.”
School officials told the Times HCC employees are required to take a loyalty oath to the United States and the Constitution. A lot of HCC students are also in the military, or veterans, Carl said.
HCC student Brad Richlin, who served in the U.S. Navy, said he was offended by the IAC’s vote to ban the pledge.
“It troubles me especially as a vet, because there are men and women on a daily basis that are dying to give these campuses and all of us American, you know academic freedom, religious freedom, and they are dying for that flag and what it represents,” Richlin said.
Of course Richlin wasn’t the only student who opposed the move.
“You can’t go against freedom of speech,” freshman Adam Wooton told the Times. “It’s literally the first amendment. If you don’t want to say it, you don’t have to, but you shouldn’t be able to stop someone else from saying it.”
The IAC meeting minutes from September show the motion to shelve the pledge came from chairwoman Sunshine Gibbons “to determine whether the campus councils should say the Pledge of Allegiance when hosting the Institutional Advisory Council,” the Times reports.
“That then progressed into whether the pledge should be said at any IAC meeting,” according to the site.
The group ultimately voted 3-1 to eliminate the pledge from IAC and campus council meetings. But Gibbons now alleges the meeting minutes are not accurate, and are being revised.
“The most common reason discussed was time efficiency and consistency with other committees,” Gibbons told the Times. “It was stated that if the group was to be sensitive to the diverse population at the meetings, perhaps it would be better to not put anyone in a position to feel uncomfortable or out of place.”
HCC’s Ybor campus abstained from voting on the measure, though officials expressed their opinion on the issue on the campus’ marquee last week: “We pledge allegiance.”