After a widely publicized incident of flag burning on Hampshire College’s campus, the college president is taking extreme measures to make sure nothing like that happens again. From now on, no flags of any kind will be flown on campus.
The Massachusetts college has been on something of a controversial streak when it comes to flags. After the recent election of Donald Trump, some students lowered the flag to half-mast. Then, to make matters worse, that same flag was lit on fire a few days later. The flag was replaced, but the college’s board responded to the incident by announcing that it would be flown at half-mast to “both to acknowledge the grief and pain experienced by so many and to enable the full complexity of voices and experiences to be heard.” Some members of the community were — to put it mildly — displeased, and the flag has become a flashpoint for veterans groups, the local community, and anti-Trump protestors and students.
Now the school has had enough scandal, and enough of flags in general. On Monday, Hampshire College’s president, Johnathan Lash, announced that no flags of any kind would be flown on campus. Going forward, on days that traditionally call for the flying of the American flag — the anniversary of 9/11 and Veterans Day for example — the president will discuss what to do with members of the student body and faculty before making any flag-related decisions.
If he hoped that his decision would silence the college’s critics, it hasn’t worked.
Flags have increasingly been at the center of campus scandals since the election. Flags commemorating Veterans Day at Brown University were torn to pieces. Students at American University burned an American flag on campus following the election, and two St. Mary’s College students have been accused of shredding a flag and flying it at half-mast in protest of Trump.
In a statement President Lash described how complicated the American flag has become, saying that there are “people for whom the flag is a very powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe — and people for whom it’s a symbol of their highest aspiration for the country.”