The American flag returned to full staff at Hampshire College in Massachusetts Friday after the school bowed to intense backlash following its decision to cease flying the symbol of the nation.
Hampshire College came under severe fire when it decided to remove all flags from its campus after an American flag was set on fire Nov. 10 after it had been lowered in response to the outcome of the presidential election two days earlier. Following the college’s announcement, outraged veterans and other flag-flying supporters organized protests outside campus. Ultimately, the school caved to the growing condemnation and pressure.
“You can have all those important discussions, just have them with the flag up,” Velis said.
“We understand that many who hold the flag as a powerful symbol of national ideals and their highest aspirations for the country – including members of our own community – felt hurt by our decisions, and that we deeply regret,” Jonathan Lash, the college’s president, said in a statement Friday.
Although Lash insisted that the college “did not lower the flag to make a political statement” following President-elect Donald Trump’s stunning victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Lash said “we acted solely to facilitate much-needed dialogue on our campus about how to dismantle the bigotry that is prevalent in our society.”
Lash added that the school’s desire to facilitate discussion over the American flag and its meaning was also triggered by the alarming “overt hate and threats, especially toward people in marginalized communities” that have “escalated in recent weeks” in an apparent jab at Trump’s victory.
“Hampshire staff and faculty have led facilitated discussions, I have held multiple focus group sessions, and all of our students, faculty, and staff have been invited to contribute their opinions, questions, and perspectives about the U.S. flag. This is what free speech looks like,” Lash said Friday, according to Fox News.
But many patriotic Americas – especially veterans – believed that the college’s desire for “discussion” and “free speech” did not warrant a flag ban in the first place.
“I was in Iraq 18 months. I got hurt, spent time at Walter Reed. I came home and there’s no way I’ll let anyone take down the flag, no way. It means a lot to me and my brothers,” veteran David Soucy told WWLP last weekend.
When news broke that Hampshire College would fly the flags once more, many veterans rejoiced across both sides of the political aisle.
“Absolutely ecstatic that Old Glory is flying again at Hampshire College,” said Democratic State Rep. John Velis, a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve who served in Afghanistan, according to WAMC. “You can have all those important discussions, just have them with the flag up … I commend the college for putting it back up. Better late than never.”