GV responds to post from gubernatorial candidate

Elizabeth Schanz, Staff Writer

Ryan Kelley, Allendale County Commissioner and candidate for Michigan governor, posted on Facebook and Tik Tok attacking the display of international flags on Grand Valley State University’s Downtown Pew campus, and falsely accusing the university of flying “Chinese Communist party” flags and incorrectly stating that the American flag must be in a higher position than the surrounding country’s flags.

The flag Kelley attacked was the People’s Republic on China’s flag and all flags were flown in accordance with the U.S. Flag code.

“GVSU Downtown Grand Rapids is flying a CCP (Chinese Communist Party) flag,” Kelly’s post said. “First, TAKE IT DOWN! It represents communism, dictatorship and oppression. Second, why would ANY of these flags be flying at the same height as the American flag? Raise the Stars and Stripes to be flown the highest!”

GVSU displays the flag of the United States of America, the State of Michigan and the GVSU flag as well as the countries of origin of international students. These flags are representative of the university’s goal of collaboration and inclusivity.

“Flags also represent active relationships with GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center and with sister-city partnerships established by the City of Grand Rapids,” GVSU said in a statement. “The flag display is a visible sign of the university’s commitment to international relations and the welcoming of international students and visitors to our campuses.”

These international flags are also flown in accordance with the United States of America flag code which determines at what height flags are displayed. The many nations displayed on Pew Campus are in accordance with these guidelines. 

Section 7G of the flag code states that when flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

Nevertheless, Kelley’s post sparked outrage amongst people who took his word for both the meaning of the flag and the way in which the flags are displayed. Many of those who commented on Kelley’s Facebook and Tik Tok posts call out to others to remove the flag themselves, states that the education system and colleges are brainwashing students, or call to defund GVSU and contact the university about removing the flag.

Some students reacted to the posts both in support and against Ryan Kelley’s statements. 

“I don’t want someone degrading our university like that, for something that is so polarizing and radical to believe,” Emily Kewel, a junior at GVSU said. “So I was honestly shocked but I also laughed because I could not understand how someone running for governor could believe that.”

Kewel said she has noticed GVSU’s continued effort to combat misinformation on campus through educating students on how to properly do research and seek more in-depth information about what they see in the world around them. She also stood in support of the message of the flags and GVSU’s decision to display them. 

“There is nothing wrong with being prideful in where you come from,” Kewel said. “Especially because America was founded on immigration.”

One of the individuals who initially believed Kelley’s statements about the height of the flags as improper was GVSU sophomore Noah Russell who, through his own research, discovered the flag code. Even with this correction, Russell still resonated with some of Kelley’s comments regarding other countries flying alongside the American flag, regardless of the background. 

“Most of me wants to say, ‘No we shouldn’t have their flag up there,'” Russell said. “I think there is probably a different way we could represent the people from those countries than having their flags flying at the same level as our flag.”

Russel said he supports Kelley and his standpoint regardless of this information and this support would “absolutely not” change regardless of whether or not Kelley redacts his comment of misinformation, saying “It’s just politics.”