Officials at the University of California at Irvine canceled a planned Tuesday night meeting focused on an effort to ban the American flag and other flags from the lobby of a student government office after they received a “viable threat of violence,” according to news reports.
Although the threat was not specific, school officials said they were taking it seriously, according to UCI News.
Campus police increased their security presence and officials asked the campus community to report any suspicious activities.
— UC Irvine (@UCIrvine) March 10, 2015
“The safety of our campus and its students, faculty and staff is and will always be our absolute, utmost concern,” Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a statement. “There is no gray area when it comes to threats of violence; they will not be tolerated, and we cannot allow our community to be put at risk.”
For a while — a very short while – it looked as if the American flag had seen its last days on the UCI campus.
On March 3, the Associated Students of the University of California passed a resolution that would ban national flags from the lobby and offices of student government, according to a statment posted on UCI News.
Penned by Matthew Guevara, a student in the school of social ecology, the resolution stated: “Designing a culturally inclusive space aims to remove barriers that create undue effort and separation by planning and designing spaces that enable everyone to participate equally and confidentially.”
“The American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism,” the resolution continued. “Flags not only serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism, but also construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments.”
The resolution noted that in certain spaces “freedom of speech” can be interpreted as “hate speech.”
The measure passed with a 6-to-4 vote in the student legislative council that included two abstentions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The ban didn’t last long.
Four days after its birth, the radical push to remove national symbols from student government facilities was dead. On Saturday, student leaders vetoed the resolution, according to the Times.
“This misguided legislation was not endorsed or supported in any way by the campus leadership, the University of California, or the broader student body,” the ASUCI executive cabinet said in the statement posted on UCI News. “The views of a handful of students passing a resolution do not represent the opinions of the nearly 30,000 students on this campus, and have no influence on the policies and practices of the university.”
Tuesday’s meeting was organized to discuss overriding the veto that shelved he original resolution, UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon told KCBS-TV.
The American flag had hung on a wall in the student government suite, according to the Associated Press. Recently, the AP reported, someone placed it on the desk of Reza Zomorrodian, council president and head of the executive cabinet, “with an anonymous note saying it shouldn’t be in the lobby.”
On Friday, state Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Santa Ana) told the AP that legislators may introduce a state constitutional amendment prohibiting “state-funded universities and college campuses from banning the United States flag.”
The resolution also sparked outrage among some military veterans and students, the Times reported. UCI junior Daniel La, 21, told the Times that he didn’t think the vote was “representative of the school.”
“There’s a lot of students that aren’t happy about it,” he said. “I don’t personally agree with it either.”
Though he has called the effort to ban flags “outrageous” and “indefensible,” Gillman’s statement on Tuesday was focused on safety.
“Regardless of your opinion on the display of the American flag, we must be united in protecting the people who make this university a premier institution of higher learning,” he said. “Our campus must be a place for safe and civil discourse. We continue to call on everyone to condemn all harassment and threats of violence.”
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