Pulling pledge of allegiance from Florida community college evokes strong emotion


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Navy Veteran and Hillsborough Community College student Brad Richlin, who’s face is smiling H.C.C. billboards and ads proclaiming “It’s good to be me,” is not smiling about a decision by the college’s Institutional Advisory Committee to dump the Pledge of Allegiance before its meetings on certain campuses.

“I’m concerned that we’ve trivialized the Pledge of Allegiance,” Brad said.  Preliminary minutes of the IAC’s September meeting, when that decision was made, state : “Some members expressed views that the Pledge made some people uncomfortable and that it violated their beliefs in academic freedom.”

“Well I’d like to know who paid the price for that academic freedom and what was that price?  To me as a veteran that price was blood,” Brad Richlin.

According to HCC spokesperson Ashley Carl, the IAC looks at workplace issues,  community building within the college and morale building. Though she claims neither she nor the school’s administration think the vote to pull the Pledge is a morale builder.

“I don’t think so. We are a tax funded institution, you sign a loyalty oath when you come to work at HCC. Every employee signs it. We don’t support the decision that was made,” she said.

8 On Your Side talked with some students at the HCC Ybor campus and the IAC doesn’t seem to speak for them.

“Doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable,” student Leticia Olivo said.  “It’s up to you if you want to say it, if you don’t, you don’t have to.”

“Like to me the Pledge of Allegiance shows respect to the history of America you know,” added Osiel Gudino, another HCC student.

“I don’t feel like it violates academic freedoms,” Student Alyssa Pagan explained.  I”’m 25, so since I was a kid we said the Pledge of Allegiance before every class.  And now the only time we do it is during our student government meetings.”  The subject generated quite a conversation on WFLA.com.

From Allan B, “The men and women of our military defend our freedom.  Requiring people to say a pledge disrespects the very freedom they fight for.”
From Phil, “You can just stand there no one is forcing you to say it.”

And Teri Thompson Markley wrote, “Well from my point of view if the Pledge to the American flag is inappropriate then so are tax credits, Pell grants or any other form of government aid or assistance.”

The chairperson of the IAC wrote a two-page response to our reports. Sunshine Gibbons says the Pledge was removed through a democratic process, and the terms ‘academic freedom’ and ‘structured dissent against authority’ were never discussed in the September meeting.

You can read the whole response here. 

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