LYNDON CENTER — Authorities are investigating a possible hate crime at Northern Vermont University where a Progress Pride flag was stolen sometime over the weekend.

The raising of the flag on the university’s campus was celebrated on Friday as part of NVUnity Presents: Pride Week! Pictures on university social media space show students raising the Progress Pride and the flag flying in the foreground with the American flag on a different pole in the distant background.

The Progress Pride flag is based on the original rainbow Pride flag created in 1978 but to reflect the diversity within the LGBTQ community.

The information noted online about the NVUnity club states, “The sole purpose of NVUnity is to help people not feel alone and have a safe space on campus. It is an all-inclusive club where everyone is welcome. It’s not designed to be an LGBTQ+ exclusive club–people of different cultures, religions, ethics, and races are welcome to every club meeting.”

NVU Dean of Students Jonathan Davis said the NVUnity group was recently recognized by the NVU student government association, and the flag-raising was one of the final events for a week of Pride events. Among the events held during the week were a Queer Fashion Show and a Come Out of the Closet event where “Students are given the opportunity to symbolize their coming out by opening the door into a colorful world.” There was also a Rainbow Sherbet Bar, ATT Lobby, a Drag Show and the “Glow Roller Rink” at the Stonehenge Parking Lot.

Davis said he can’t remember a time in his 25 years at the university that a Pride flag was flown above the campus. He said the message that the flag communicates is fitting for the NVU campus.

“NVU is a place of inclusivity, and we stand as a place for justice where everyone is valued,” he said.

The pole from which the flag was taken is near the skate park and athletic fields. Davis said the pole was lifted from its base and dropped, and the flag was disconnected and taken.

State police learned of the flag theft on Monday morning. Trooper David Hastings is investigating. He responded to the campus to gather information and conduct interviews. Crimes of vandalism and theft were committed, he notes, and he’s asking anyone with information to call him at the St. Johnsbury barracks number, 802-748-3111.

Trooper Hastings also noted that he communicated the crime details to Attorney General’s Office under the Bias Incident Reporting System.

Information about the system notes that “members of the public may call upon law enforcement to respond to a broad range of hate crimes and bias-motivated conduct that may collectively be viewed as ‘Bias Incidents.’

Bias incidents include hate crimes, which are actual or attempted crimes maliciously motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or service in the armed forces.

Davis said the university is also investigating the flag theft to determine if it was a student or multiple students who committed the crime. There’s a student code of conduct that dictates sanctions for infractions of the code. Davis said the university’s response can range from a warning to expulsion from the school.

He said if it’s proven that a student is to blame for the flag theft, he anticipates a significant response from the university.

“I think that an incident like this is a major violation,” said Davis.

The university will be replacing the stolen flag. Davis said officials should have a plan on Wednesday for another flag-raising ceremony.

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