On April 4, the American flag in the Flagstaff Courtyard was vandalized, stolen, and replaced with a flag of a secret society called T.U.B, standing for Truth, Unity, Brotherhood, which last emerged in 2016. Going against the Blue Book rule foreboding participation in secret societies under core community values, T.U.B. is known for its history of exclusivity and environments of white-male, upper-class privilege.
Though many students had seen the black flag in front of Paresky Commons that day, Susan Esty, Dean of Students and Residential Life, officially broke the news in an email later in the evening. In the email, Esty spoke on how lowering the flag was not only breaking a Blue Book rule but also disrespected the core values of the community and people who have served the United States of America.
“T.U.B. has had a history not only of exclusivity but also of hearkening back with nostalgia to a time when Phillips Academy was almost entirely white and male and socioeconomically privileged. We imagine that these actions were undertaken to send the community a message. I write today to say that we will listen to students of all identities and beliefs, but we will not tolerate behavior that harms people or that creates a community where all of us cannot live in our dignity,” wrote Esty in an email to the community.
Casey Alexander Smith, Instructor in Art, described how he believes that this incident should raise awareness of the history of the society’s values on campus and how they could be continued to be promoted by these societies. Smith hopes that this incident doesn’t encourage others to do the same.
“It’s interesting that the history of this academy has societies that continue to promote those values, and I think we should look at the larger picture as to why those values were a part of this campus to begin with. The goal of any terror or incidents like that are to bring awareness to whatever they’re trying to promote, but that’s not always the most logical or justified means of getting to that point. Unfortunately, stupidity breeds stupidity, but we, as a community, have to band together to make sure that that stupidity knows that it doesn’t have a place here,” said Smith.
Matt Leonard ’24 noted the increase in T.U.B. incidents over the past few years, citing one during his freshmen year as an example. However, Leonard agrees with Esty that this specific flag incident was severe, unlike other T.U.B. attempts.
“Lately, there have been more frequent T.U.B. events or activities than there have been in past years. They were in the boy’s locker room, and there were poems, kind of like protesting the dorm visitation policies. And then there was obviously the flag being taken down and replaced. I think the vandalism and taking of the American flag are the most severe. In the past, the events have been pretty minute…in comparison to that. Obviously, this is quite a big incident. It’s very disrespectful to take down the flag and replace it with their own,” said Leonard.
Dilnawa Kizghin ’25 commented on secret societies on campus, noting that it could be positive in some circumstances. Kizghin also thought that due to the perception of society, the debatably unintentional harm the prank could have caused became a more serious matter. “I think that it really matters what they stand for, the idea of a secret society is pretty cool, [however] this society represents controversial things that are harmful to the well-being of the community on campus. I think that because they vandalized, it shows a sense of disrespect and [how they] just want attention. I would say that their morals also affect how people perceive that prank because they’re so controversial. The prank is more like vandalism rather than harmless,” said Kizghin.
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