Hampshire College in western Massachusetts continues to find itself at the center of a controversy involving the American flag.
In the latest move, Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash decided that the school will no longer fly the American flag, sparking protest among veterans groups.
The controversy began following a heated Nov. 8 presidential election and the ascension of Republican Donald Trump to President-elect. Students at the liberal arts college responded by lowering the flag to half-mast, reports CNN.
Then on Nov. 10, the flag was burned, and on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, the college replaced the burned flag, but continued to fly it at half-mast.
According to a Nov. 21 statement from Lash on the college's Facebook, flying the flag at half-mast on Veterans Day "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."
But the move sparked immediate backlash, which caused the college to remove the flag entirely, notes WWLP.
“Some months ago, the Hampshire College Board of Trustees adopted a policy of periodically flying the flag at half-staff to mourn deaths from violence around the world,” Lash wrote in the statement.
Last week, in the current environment of escalating hate-based violence, we made the decision to fly Hampshire's U.S. flag at half-staff for a time while the community delved deeper into the meaning of the flag and its presence on our campus.
...Our intention was to create the space for meaningful and respectful dialogue across the many perspectives represented in our community. Unfortunately, our efforts to inclusively convey respect and sorrow have had the opposite effect. We have heard from many on our campus as well as from neighbors in the region that, by flying the flag at half-staff, we were actually causing hurt, distress, and insult...
...Some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the presidential election - this, unequivocally, was not our intent. After some preliminary consultation with campus constituents (much more is needed), we decided on Friday that we will not fly the U.S. flag or any other flags on our college flagpole for the time being.
On Nov. 27, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 754 joined others in a “peaceful demonstration of freedom” outside of Hampshire College, according to The Recorder.
“There’s other ways that he [Lash] could have dealt with this,” Victor A. Nunez Ortiz, a post commander, for VFW said. “[Removing] our flag is disrespectful not just to the men and women who have served, but to all Americans who believe our flag is a symbol of freedom.”