Bergh: VTSU will continue to fly BLM flag at Lyndon campus

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Vermont State University

Dear Students,

Below is a response I sent this morning (February 15, 2024) to a Lyndon State College alum regarding a petition we received to remove the Black Lives Matter and Pride Progress Flags from their place on campus and fly the American Flag there instead. As you will read from my response, we will not be making this change. We seek to be a safe and welcoming place for all. One that values diversity, understanding and unity. We must resist ALL calls to have people marginalized and their representations moved to other “more appropriate” places. There is space for all, and all are valued.

I hope you will take the time to read the response and think carefully about your role in our work to be that place we seek to build and maintain. Please resist the urge to get angry or lash out. That will only make things heated. Instead, why don’t we all do something to foster the sense of belonging we strive for. Invite a neighbor for coffee or check in on a peer who has a big test approaching or is dealing with some personal challenge or pick up an extra shift for a colleague.

As for the flags, we’ll continue to fly all of the flags proudly at our campuses and use this as an opportunity to show the true character of our university as a place for all. Thanks.

Dave

David Bergh, Ed.D. (he/him)

Interim President


Dear Mr. Hoffman,

We have received the petition and are disappointed by it. You may not be aware but there are two key things about the petition that are either inaccurate or misleading and we believe the signers should have known before being asked to sign. The first is the flag pole in question was never part of the Veteran’s Park and was installed for the express purpose of flying the Black Lives Matter flag. That flag and the pride progress flag that accompanies it were part of a student-led initiative and will continue to fly as intended. At Vermont State University (VTSU), we recognize the diversity of our students and our responsibility to be a place that is welcoming and safe for all. Our values state that we foster a caring and inclusive community. 

You should also know that last summer when VTSU moved to sell land to the Vermont National Guard so that they can construct a new modern, state-of-the-art armory, we got pushback from some who thought our Army National Guard should go elsewhere. We said no. We honor and respect our military students, staff, faculty and community members - active and retired. We feel strongly that their locating next to our VTSU Lyndon campus will provide immense opportunities for our student servicemembers, future servicemembers and the broader community to support and learn from one another. Additionally, we are currently working on a MOU between the Department of Veterans Affairs/Berlin Vet Center and Vermont State University Lyndon to continue to provide a clean, comfortable, and safe environment to provide services to local Veterans in need of Vet Center services.

We take our responsibility seriously to be sure everyone is respected on our campus and in our community. We have an opportunity to grow our student population at Lyndon campus and throughout the Vermont State University in the coming years by working together and being the place where everyone can proudly be their authentic self. We are proud to have a campus with students who come from different views and experiences. This enriches all of our lives. As leaders of VTSU we will continue to foster an environment that encourages greater diversity and unity.

As I’ve now stated publicly, our VTSU Lyndon campus flies the American Flag high above the Veteran’s Park space and at the center of our campus where it can be seen from nearly every corner. It’s so massive a flag that it requires special equipment to maintain. It’s a deep source of pride for our campus. We believe it may be the highest-flying flag in Vermont.

In closing, on behalf of the entire VTSU community, thank you for your service to our country and for your leadership as a student at Lyndon State College. I hope this letter has given you some additional information to consider going forward. It’s time to move ahead and focus our collective energy on that welcoming, thriving and respectful campus community I spoke about. I hope you’ll join me in this effort.

I wish you all the best,

David Bergh

David Bergh, Ed.D. (he/him)

Interim President

Vermont State University

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Vermont State University is built upon the best of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College. Accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, July 1, 2023.

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