Hampshire College, which had previously removed its American flag after President-elect Donald Trump’s victory on Election Day, has returned the flag to its usual position on campus.
Watchdog previously reported that in the wake of the election results Hampshire lowered its flag to half-staff, a tradition usually reserved to mourn the death of servicemen and women, notable Americans or government officials. A chorus of protest arose, including from many veterans, who saw the move as a response to Trump’s election.
Hampshire president Jonathan Lash insisted that was not the intention of the college, and that lowering the flag was “meant as an expression of grief over the violent deaths being suffered in this country and globally, including the many U.S. service members who have lost their lives.”
After the flag was lowered, someone set it on fire, although the motives of that arsonist remain unclear.
Lash said the community would hold discussions about what the flag represents. A spokesman for the college, John Courtmanche, had told Watchdog that some members of the community felt “the flag is a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe.”
Shortly after the flag was removed, on Nov. 27, an estimated 400 veterans and others launched a protest outside the university entrance. In response, Lash sent an email on Tuesday stating that “no protestors will be allowed to come on campus.” Lash’s statement also said “that media are prohibited from speaking directly to students.” A subsequent email sent the next day clarified that it was a “mistake” to tell students not to speak to the media.
On Friday morning, Courtmanche sent an adviser to the assembled media to inform them the college would be returning the flag. Media presence was limited at the raising of the flag, and were told they could “not photograph nor record any member of the Hampshire community without their consent.” Media was also prohibited from entering or remaining on campus after 8:15 Friday morning or on the weekend, “as the college is focused on allowing students and employees to attend to their semester of academic work, and ensuring campus safety and security.”
Lash also sent a statement to the Hampshire community about the return of the flag, and claimed there had been messages of “hate” sent to members of the campus community in response to the initial removal.
“We are alarmed by the overt hate and threats, especially toward people in marginalized communities, which have escalated in recent weeks,” Lash said. “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.”
He again insisted that the college lowered the flag to promote dialogue.
In a follow-up email to Watchdog, Courtmanche expanded on the claim that members of the Hampshire community had been the victims of “overt hate.”
“Some offices here had received hate-filled messages related to the absence of a flag, which were upsetting to read,” Courtmanche said, adding that the college had increased campus security in response. “Offices here had also received messages of support from across the region and country as well.”
Courtmanche directed Watchdog to MassLive.com and said the comments under articles about Hampshire would give an impression of the alleged hate received by college administrators.
Maybe I just didn’t spend enough time digging through the comments, because I didn’t see any “overt hate” toward “marginalized communities.” I saw harsh criticism of the flag decision, and harsh responses to those upset about the flag’s removal, but nothing that even came close to overt “hate.”
That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but it was certainly not the norm. Not all criticism is “hate.”