A liberal arts college in western Massachusetts has taken down the American flag on campus –leaving the flagpole bare until next semester –in hopes it will free up students to have a “direct, open, and respectful conversation.”
The flag at the center of Hampshire College is viewed by some as a symbol of racism and hatred and following the election and news of Donald Trump’s victory – many students called for its removal.
Before dawn on Veterans Day—the flag was burned. It was quickly replaced, but the College Board announced that the flag would be flown at half-staff, the Washington Post reported.
The decision to fly the flag at half-staff was made to “acknowledge the grief and pain experienced by so many and to enable the full complexity of voices and experiences to be heard.” But lowering it offended many, especially veterans and military families who saw it as disrespectful.
Friday, the decision was made to remove the flag entirely after other efforts to quell disruption on campus over the flag, failed.
“This is not a campus-wide ban as some media have mistakenly reported, campus members are free to individually display their own flags; this only pertains to our flagpole,” the school said in a statement on Facebook.
There was apparently too much disagreement over the flag’s meaning. Some see it as a symbol of unity and pride, while others view it as a symbol of oppression.
Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash wrote: “By removing the flag, the college will seek to focus our efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.”
A spokesman for the college told the Boston Globe that some people view the flag as “a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe.”
Earlier this month college leaders wrote a message to the community, saying the division and conflict that erupted after the election were felt “acutely and personally.” The message went on to say that, “On campus we have seen numerous expressions of pain, fear, anger, and vulnerability — understandable given news reports from across the country about acts of hostility and violence against people of color, immigrants, international citizens, and Muslims.”
However, Lash also noted that, “Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election — this, unequivocally, was not our intent.”
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