CHARLESTON -- The campaign to get a Black Lives Matter flag flown on the Eastern Illinois University campus did not get official support from Student Senate Wednesday night.
A measure that would endorse the raising of the flag did not even make it to an official vote. In a vote to get it on the agenda, eight voted against and six voted for.
Instead, the student-run advisory body on campus supported and encouraged an alternative to raising the flag, which could include inclusionary events and activities, in another measure voted on that night.
This includes the promised creation of a committee to address and create these alternatives to touch on Black Lives Matter initiative.
Two university students, Morgan Colvin and Keshyra Bluminberg, raised the question more than a month ago through a petition after hearing news of other schools doing the same.
Most notably, the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont, flew the flag upon request from student government on that campus, according to a report from the Burlington Free Press.
The petition, which is on a website that hosts such campaigns, has drawn online signatures from 618 people with a goal to reach 2,500. Whether they reach that goal, the two still hoped to get a Black Lives Matter flag flown during February for Black History Month.
The proposal by Colvin and Bluminberg asks that the flag is raised, along with and not replacing the U.S. flag, in the South Quad on campus where a majority of students living on campus reside.
The two approached student government for support for this campaign. Up until Wednesday night, senate members had been apprehensive to vote on the project.
Senate members at previous meetings raised concern ranging from safety concerns to appropriateness, and that was much of the same this time around.
Most of tonight’s meeting centered around the feared divisiveness of the move. Megan Walker, senate member, said in speaking with students that the move would divide or unite the student body.
Although he was not a voting member, Zachary Cohen, Executive Vice President, believed it would not be a benefit to the student body to raise a flag related to a political movement.
This point was a theme in previous meetings.
Danny Dally, senate member, believed the messaging was not a good fit for a public institution at a previous senate meeting.
“I do believe that it is a political statement, and… I think it is the job of the university to remain non-partisan,” said Dally.
Senate members anticipate the flag would drum up conflict, and Dally said that is reason in of itself to not support the move.
"No matter what happens there is going to be conflict," Nia Douglas, senate member, rebutted. "Universities go through conflict every day...That is something that can't be avoided so we should not run away from it."
As a whole, the Black Lives Matter movement generated discussion of alleged police brutality toward black people.
Black Lives Matter began as "a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism," according to the organization's website.
The movement has generated controversy, though, with some calling the movement anti-police in nature. Other critics claim the name of the movement in itself is racist, spawning counter movements like "All Lives Matter."
Supporters noted that this was a misrepresentation of the message the movement is preaching.
Like in previous discussions, Charleston community involvement was also touched on, with some suggesting that they should be considered in the decision. Colvin and Bluminberg mentioned some of the negative responses they received on the matter came from those outside of the EIU community.
Some senate members have pushed back against involving the Charleston community in previous meetings.
“We need to realize that Eastern is separate from the community,” said John Cieslak, senate member. “We need to realize that this is something that should not be influenced by the residents of Charleston.”
Cieslak noted they should be informed of the matter, though.
Senate members also were concerned about the potential effect it might have on university flag policy, and allow other groups to advocate their flag is raised along with the U.S. flag.
Despite not getting support from the senate, the campaign to get the flag raised is not lost.
The final decision still falls on the EIU administration. Lynette Drake, EIU vice president for Student Affairs, said the administration will wait to get the senate’s recommendation before making a decision on raising the flag.
The administration has had discussion on the conversations taking place around the matter, but not necessarily the matter itself, Drake said. She noted the administration has been encouraged by the conversations taking place.
Colvin and Bluminberg were not present at the meeting.