In case you haven't been following the news, Hampshire College chose to stop flying the American flag a couple of weeks ago, following a flag-burning incident by students demonstrating against the recent presidential election. That decision in turn precipitated demonstrations and remonstrations, mostly protesting Hampshire purportedly 'banning' the flying of the American flag. Today, Jonathan Lash sent the following statement:
"Below is a statement I released to the Hampshire community this morning, following the raising of the U.S. flag on Hampshire's main flagpole. Over the past two weeks we've had numerous thoughtful, engaged discussions on campus, and we are committed to continuing this dialogue.
This morning we raised the United States flag to full staff at Hampshire College after a two-week discussion period about what the flag means to members of the Hampshire community. College leadership, including the board of trustees, decided on November 18 to lower the flag for a time to encourage uninhibited expression of deeply held viewpoints.
We are alarmed by the overt hate and threats, especially toward people in marginalized communities, which have escalated in recent weeks. We did not lower the flag to make a political statement. Nor did we intend to cause offense to veterans, military families, or others for whom the flag represents service and sacrifice. We acted solely to facilitate much-needed dialogue on campus about how to dismantle the bigotry that is so prevalent in our society. 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.
The dialogue we have experienced so far is the first step of a process. 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. 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. We raise the flag now as a symbol of that freedom, and in hopes for justice and fairness for all.
At Hampshire, we are committed to living up to these principles:
• To insist on diversity, inclusion, and equity from our leaders and in our communities, and the right to think critically and to speak openly about the historical tensions that exist throughout the country
• To constructively and peacefully resist those who are opposing these values
• To actively and passionately work toward justice and positive change on our campus and in the world.
No less should be expected of any institution of higher learning."