Following the Nov. 8 election of Republican Donald Trump — and the violence that followed — Hampshire College lowered its American flag on campus to half-staff.
“Some months ago, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees adopted a policy of periodically flying the flag at half-staff to mourn deaths from violence around the world,” school president Jonathan Lash wrote in an email Friday, Campus Reform reported. “Earlier this week, in the current environment of escalating hate-based violence, we made the decision to fly Hampshire's U.S. flag at half-staff for a time while the community delved deeper into the meaning of the flag and its presence on our campus.”
As you might imagine, the move by the Amherst, Massachusetts, school upset veterans and some community members, WWLP-TV reported. But that was just a preview of what was to come.
On the eve of Veterans Day, some students burned the half-staff flag, the station said.
“They can be upset, but they don’t have a lot to worry about," Christopher Benedetto told WWLP of the protesting students. "They’re going to a pretty nice school. I’m sure things are pretty good for them. They need to show it a different way, basically.”
Shamtum Jha, who attends neighboring Amherst College, agreed, telling the station that "it is a disrespect" and that the flag "should not have been lowered in the first place," adding that the decision shows "outright intolerance."
The reaction from Hampshire College? It won't fly the U.S. flag or any other flags.
Image source: WWLP-TV
More from Lash's email, via Inside Higher Ed:
Unfortunately, our efforts to inclusively convey respect and sorrow have had the opposite effect. We have heard from many on our campus as well as from neighbors in the region that, by flying the flag at half-staff, we are actually causing hurt, distress and insult. Our decision has been seen as disrespectful of the traditional expression of national mourning and has been especially painful to our Hampshire colleagues who are veterans or families of veterans. 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. After some preliminary consultation with campus constituents (we understand much more is needed), we have decided that we will not fly the U.S. flag or any other flags at Hampshire for the time being. We hope this will enable us to instead focus our efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.
The Hampshire Howler, a student newspaper, ran a piece Nov. 14 titled "Take Down the Flag and/or Perish as an Institution." It noted that "now is the time" to take the American flag down and "we are the ones to do it. If we don’t, it will be hard to feel that we stand for anything."
"As an institution, we are going to have to keep struggling to exist and to ensure that we are supporting one another in a country that we will soon find ourselves at odds with," the piece added. "This is not only about the flag, this struggle. But the flag symbolizes it."