Blake Neff, DCNF
Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. will once again fly the American flag on campus, at full staff, administrators announced Friday.
The announcement reverses a decision to remove the flag that made the school a subject of protest and ridicule for the past two weeks.
Hampshire initially placed its on-campus flag at half staff following President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the election. But several student activists agitated for the flag to be removed entirely, saying it represented oppressive forces like the police and the U.S. military.
Then, the night before Veterans Day, an unknown person took down the flag and burned it. The school put another flag up for Veterans Day, but a few days later announced it was taking the flag down indefinitely. At the time, president Jonathan Lash said he hoped removing the flag would encouraged students to focus on more important issues like fighting against racism and anti-gay rhetoric.
But many others didn’t react positively. The school was sharply criticized by the mayor of Amherst, and a large crowd of military veterans showed up to publicly protest.
Initially, the school tried to limit the controversy by barring protesters from campus and telling the press not to speak with its students. Now, though, the school has reversed course entirely, and announced that it will fly the flag at full-staff like it did before the election.
After making the announcement, Lash complained about the hostility he had encountered from people angry over the school’s removal of the flag.
“I’ve received many e-mails, a lot of them extremely unpleasant,” Lash told The Boston Globe. “Our phone lines have been clogged with people calling to express their anger. People can disagree with us, but we’ve also received very explicit threats.”
Lash also praised the entire controversy as a valuable lesson in the First Amendment.
“This is what free speech looks like,” he said in a statement. “We believe in it, we will continue this work on campus, and we will look for ways to engage with our neighbors in the wider community.”
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