UCI Flags: A Short Essay

Young college students stood in a circle, fifty people across, under the American flag hoisted over the campus. Standing silently, tape across their mouths, dressed in black under the warm California sun, they condoned the national onslaught of racist, bigoted attacks and death threats against students.

“Why can’t a mass shooting happen at your campus?” read one sign. “Fucking retard, go hang yourself,” read another.

A week prior, a branch of the student government voted to remove the American flag from a lobby. It was soon vetoed by another branch. Then, after a withering anti-American attacks against the university from across the country, the Chancellor wrote a letter calling the actions of the branch as “indefensible.” He went on to extol the American values of the university, proclaiming more flags would be erected (which had not been announced prior), and that ROTC cadets were guarding the flags throughout the night. It was a lie. In fact, the ROTC commander grew infuriated when she learned that the cadets were charged with being politically active in uniform.

By calling the actions of the students as “indefensible,” the students felt hang out to dry under thousands of messages of hate mail, harassment of their family and personal death threats. The administration directly said to a group of military veterans that its statement was proportional, as the facts were laid out, and necessary protection of the students were set in place. The student government who laid out the legislation allege that the university never reached out to them in any official capacity.

What is perhaps more troubling than the argument over providing protection in a forthright and time manner, the administration suffers a credibility problem among students. By calling the action of the students indefensible, it would also appear to say that there’s nothing to defend against. Even death threats.

In my private talks with the administrative staff, low-voiced rumblings stir about the Chancellor’s statement. The students were quite defensible, they argued — the legislation occurred in a messy democratic process. They acknowledged the larger concern of the Chancellor’s rhetoric creating a secondary focus on students’ safety, well-being and internal processes. The primary concern is university reputation. Even under death threats. A staff member went on to say that the Chancellor should issue a second statement, defending the students.

It’s unlikely.

Many articulated concerns about institutional racism, bigotry, hatred and Marxist explanations for why the Chancellor would not water down or redact his message. At first, it may seem radical to consider that a university professor and now chancellor is catering to racist, conservative overlords.

“But he’s a liberal,” another explained. And liberals, as the saying goes within the group, have no backbone. They profess the ideals of progressives — inclusivity, equality, an end to racism and bigotry. However, when the tough get going, liberals run from the fight. Case in point: When American conservatives drummed support the war in Iraq, only ONE democrat in the House among hundreds opposed the war.

In light of this, the Chancellor is simply another spineless liberal who at another hour might’ve condoned institutional racism, but at this time pulled rhetoric straight out of a Fox News headline to sideline the students by calling their actions: “an attack on American values.”

A greater attack on American values is meddling with internal democratic processes. A greater attack on American values is being disloyal to your constituents, especially those who pay your salary. An even greater attack on American values is creating a rhetorical vacuum where only vitriol and death threats pervade the dialogue.

If the American flag is hung, does that mean it cannot be put down… ever?

I propose the American flag being hung everywhere. Even behind bathroom door stalls. If it’s appropriate everywhere, it really should be everywhere. But it isn’t. And in a space that’s smaller than a lot of living rooms, an American flag can be taken down.

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