Last week the student government of a public, taxpayer-supported institution which receives boatloads of research and other money from the U.S. government voted to ban the American and all other flags from hanging in the student government main lobby on campus. It happened at the University of California at Irvine.
The Resolution, “Flags and decoration adjustment for inclusivity” was introduced by Matthew Guevara, the “student ecology” representative to the student government, the Associated Students of University of California at Irvine. It was seconded by Khaalida Sidney.
According to the Resolution, which was passed six in favor, four opposed and two cowardly abstentions, “the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism,” and its display “does not express only selective aspects of its symbolism but the entire spectrum of its interpretation.”
This legislation also points out that “flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards” and that “a common ideological understanding of the United states includes American exceptionalism and superiority.”
All of this, the drafters of the Resolution note, is a barrier to the “safe space” and inclusiveness the ASUCI hoped to create.
And then the Resolution concludes with its “Resolved” clause: “Let it be resolved that ASUCI make every effort to make the Associated Students main lobby space as inclusive as possible. Let it further be resolved that no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associated Students main lobby space.” (See the full Resolution, here.)
Yeah, well, not so much.
The ASUCI student government president Reza Zomorrodian issued a statement the same day the legislation passed. Zomorrodian expressed his firm opposition to the resolution, despite “understand[ing] the authors intent and supporters intent.”
On Saturday March 7, just two days after the ban was approved, the ASUCI executive cabinet voted to veto the ban, stating its belief that the ban is “counter to the ideals that allow us to operate as an autonomous student government organization with the freedoms of speech and expression associated with it.”
The veto statement went on: “It is these very symbols that represent our constitutional rights that have allowed for our representative creation and our ability to openly debate all ranges of issues and pay tribute to how those liberties were attained.”
Acknowledging the perversity of using the mechanisms created by the American form of government to ban the symbol of that government, the executive cabinet members wrote:
As students in an academic institution we encourage all students on campus to participate in open debate about a wide array of issues and to actively engage in academic curiosity, which lies at the backbone of a preeminent academic research institution. It is this freedom to be able to navigate and explore topics on a wide range of issues that we see at risk if we begin to engage in a particular form of regulation of free speech and its expression through symbols in any space associated with our organization.
And even the grown ups at this University of California school (the same school, incidentally, at which then-Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren had been repeatedly booed and heckled during a speech) immediately weighed in, condemning the flag ban.
The UCI administration issued a statement on Saturday, March 7, calling the Resolution “misguided” and “not endorsed or supported in any way by the campus leadership, the University of California, or the broader student body.”
The administration noted that the ASUCI executive cabinet would be meeting that day to discuss whether to veto the ban, something the administration “encouraged.” The administration also recommended that the legislation not be pursued any further, and pointed out that the American flag was still “proudly flying throughout our campus and will continue to do so.”