Some Faculty Defend Anti-Flag Students at Irvine

March 13, 2015

The push by some student government members at the University of California at Irvine to ban the U.S. flag from the student government office areas -- though unsuccessful -- has attracted widespread criticism. Many have noted that the flag symbolizes American ideas of equality and freedom of expression, and have objected to the views of those student government members that the flag is a sign of imperialism and hate. But much of the criticism of the students has also been of the "America -- love it or leave it" variety, and the students behind the measure have received rude e-mail and threats.

In response, some faculty members are circulating a petition expressing support for the students. "We write to support the six members who offered the resolution to remove national flags from the ASUCI lobby," the petition states. "The university ought to respect their political position and meet its obligation to protect and promote their safety. The resolution recognized that nationalism, including U.S. nationalism, often contributes to racism and xenophobia, and that the paraphernalia of nationalism is in fact often used to intimidate. This is a more or less uncontroversial scholarly point, and in practice the resolution has drawn admiration nationally from much of the academic community."

The petition goes on to say that the criticism of the students backs up their point. "Over the weekend, UCI has been inundated with racist, xenophobic comments and death threats against the students from people who are, precisely, invested in the paraphernalia of nationalism," the petition adds.

The Los Angeles Times reported that some faculty members and students think the administration at Irvine was too involved in the debate, speaking out repeatedly against the anti-flag resolution before the student government process had time to play itself out.

Howard Gillman, the Irvine chancellor, has updated a statement he issued on the flag controversy. In his statement, he criticized the idea of banning the flag from any part of campus and said that some students sometimes embrace ideas that are "unconventional and even outrageous."

In the update, he criticizes the threats against these students. "Regardless of your opinion on the display of the American flag, we must be united in protecting the people who make this university a premier institution of higher learning," he said. "Our campus must be a place for safe and civil discourse. We continue to call on everyone to condemn all harassment and threats of violence."

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