I’ve reproduced below an email received fairly recently from the bursar of my college. I think it stands on its own as a shining example of the oddness that is Cambridge…
I am writing at the request of the Buildings Committee concerning the flying of flags above the Porters Lodge. Early in January the College was approached by the Junior Parlour and asked if we would consider joining other Colleges in flying the Rainbow Flag of Diversity to mark the start of LGBT History Month on 1 Feb (tomorrow).
For the last twenty years Pembroke has followed set rules in flying flags; only the Union Flag and the College flag have been raised at full mast, and those only for set days during the year. In 1995 proposals were considered to fly flags for the four Patron Saints of constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Back then the discussion provoked considerable disagreement. Many felt that flying the flags of Patron Saints was a visible sign of our desire to welcome students from a wide geographical spectrum. In the end a compromise was adopted that the College flag should be flown for the four Patron Saints days.
The request from the JP generated much discussion, and an acknowledgement that times have changed. The Buildings Committee, and then the College Meeting, agreed not only to fly the Rainbow Flag on 1 Feb (tomorrow) but also to purchase the flags of the four Patron Saints and fly them for their respective days.
In taking this decision it was noted that Pembroke aspires to “Excellence in Diversity” and welcomes excellence from across both the geographical and human spectrum.
It should also be noted that the Rainbow Flag and Patron Saints flags are on a short list of flags permitted without explicit permission under the 2011 Town and Country Planning Act. There are no plans to consider further additions to our repertoire.
With Warm Wishes
As a follow-up, I’d like to note that this was by no means limited to Pembroke, and that in fact other colleges generated a significant amount of drama in relation to flag-flying. Tune in next week and the week after for more on how England/Cambridge manages to navigate its way between the opposing forces of modernization and tradition.