Flags hang in the Johnson Center. Broadside file photo.

As George Mason University prepares to celebrate its diversity during the 31st annual International Week, some student groups are expressing outrage because they feel they will not be represented.

During I-Week, the university hangs the flags of different countries in the Johnson Center. In 2009, a controversy arose over displaying the flag of East Turkestan, a disputed region in China. Since then, the university’s flag display policy has been challenged by other student groups.

On Monday, the university released a revised policy for this year’s I-Week. It states that only flags of countries listed on the immigration documents of Mason students will be displayed. As a consequence, flags such as those of Palestine and Kurdistan, which have been included in the past, will not be flown. These flags can still be displayed at the I-Week opening ceremony and other events with prior registration.

Rizhna Chener, president of the Kurdistan Student Organization, created a Facebook page to raise awareness of this change in policy, which she claims on the page is based on “fears that recognizing non-states … would inflame the Chinese embassy and by extension the Chinese government, which donates a significant amount of money to the university.”

The university’s Confucius Institute receives funding from China, but according to Kathy Trump, associate dean of International Education and Programs, the policy was not put into place to appease a specific country.

“I want to reassure you that the best interests of our entire campus community, in all its amazing diversity, were kept in mind as we worked to craft the flag guidelines,” Trump said.

Qingwei Hu, president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, said CSSA did not raise opposition to flying the flag of East Turkestan and thinks the new flag policy is fair.

At three dialogue sessions held by the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution earlier this school year, attendees discussed issues involving emerging nations and separatist movements.

Trump said the new flag guidelines were based on “many earnest discussions among students, faculty, staff and administrators … [and] input from dialogue sessions.”

Having attended the sessions and voiced her opinion along with other KSO members, Chener said she had been confident the Kurdish flag would be flown this year.

KSO met with Trump on Wednesday to express their disappointment over the new policy. According to Chener, Trump said the policy could not be changed, but perhaps the additional flags could be displayed elsewhere.

Chener said she declined the offer because “that is even more discriminatory. It’s saying we can drink from this water fountain but not that one.”

Chener said KSO plans on organizing a protest to voice opposition to the policy.

The “Mason Bans Flags representing Recognized Student Organizations” Facebook page has attracted more than 150 “likes.”

The Arab Student Association is also disappointed because they think the Palestinian flag should be flown, President Tamara Abdelsamad said.