International Festival begins with Parade of Flags


Marchers walk in the International Parade of Flags on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, from Woody Hall to the Student Center. The parade was the kickoff event of International Festival 2017 at SIU. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Diamond Jones

Colorful fabric rippled through the air as a group of students walked through campus Monday morning carrying flags of their home countries.

More than 50 students, some of them international and others from the U.S., carried more than 30 flags representing the different countries students have come from to study at the university. The event, organized by the International Student Council, was planned in coordination with the university’s annual International Festival, a celebration of cultures and students from other nations.

“The purpose of the International Festival is to bring those of different nationalities together in a positive way,” said Ramesh Neupane, head of the International Student Council.


Neupane, also the commentator for the event, said this year’s theme centered around unity and diversity, which was influenced heavily by recent events that have occurred within the country.

President Donald Trump in January imposed a travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries. The State Department said more than 60,000 people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan were affected by the restrictions.

The ban was suspended following a ruling by a federal judge. The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday it would no longer enforce the executive order. The matter is scheduled to be discussed Tuesday in federal appeals court.

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell spoke of the the lower court’s rejection of Trump’s attempt to restore the travel ban, receiving a round of cheerful applause from international students and Carbondale community attendees.

“We support all of our students here at SIUC,” Colwell said. “We want the international students to be able to learn, and with them being here, we’re actually learning a lot from them.”

About 2,000 students enrolled at the university are from outside the United States. These students are working toward degrees, attending graduate school and involved in student leadership positions.


Other students came to rally in support of those from other countries during Monday’s event, carrying signs that read, “Protest + Resist,” “We Love our Muslim Students,” and “ SIU alumni supports all students.”

“I think it’s really important to support our international students in general but also focus in particular on the executive order Trump issued,” said Crystle Lacroix, a graduate student in communications studies.

Lacroix said there are almost 100 students at SIU who come from the countries named in the executive order targets, and they are afraid. In order to make their time better at universities, she said, some of the courses should directly relate to the experiences they face as internationals. She also said the university should hire more people of different nationalities.

Maya O’Neal, a graduate student in public health from Round Lake, arranges flags Monday, Feb. 6, 2017, on the stage in the Student Center ballroom. O’Neal also serves as a graduate assistant in the Center for International Education. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)


Interim Director of the Center for International Education Andrew Carver asked the people in attendance to “stand in solidarity with international students.”

“Now is the time that our students need our support the most,” he said. 

Campus reporter Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

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Correction: Ramesh Neupane is head of the International Student Council, not Ramneesh Prabhakar. We regret the mistake.