CLEMSON, S.C. - In a nod to national protests, several Clemson University students opted to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance at a student government meeting this week.
Jaren Stewart, vice president of Clemson's Undergraduate Student Government, was one of nearly a dozen student government members to sit during the pledge.
In the past week, dozens of NFL players have chosen to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social inequalities.
Clemson, Stewart said, is not immune to issues present on a national scale. While students of color at Clemson don't necessarily face violence each day, walking into a classroom and feeling an "air of racism" is catastrophic in its own way, he said.
"The social exclusion and isolation is very real and very damaging to students here," Stewart said. "We understand the motif that there's a Clemson family — and it doesn't include everyone."
Though many students in Monday's meeting were able to understand why some sat during the pledge and even stood to deliver a standing ovation, those who were displeased made it blatantly apparent, Stewart said.
"There were people who were vehemently against it," Stewart said. "I was never made to feel comfortable in student government. Now I know who those people are."
Leland Dunwoodie, president of Clemson's student senate, declined to comment. Dunwoodie did not sit during the pledge.
Killian McDonald, Clemson's student government president, said addressing violence and injustice toward minorities and people of color is a difficult conversation, but one Clemson's student government isn't shying away from.
"It's not about disrespecting the flag or disrespecting the United States," McDonald said. "This is a dialogue about violence against black lives."