AMHERST, Massachusetts (Christian Examiner) – Students at a Massachusetts private college were so distraught by the election of Republican Donald Trump to the presidency, they decided to make a statement – on Nov. 9 they lowered the flag at Hampshire College to half-staff.
Then, three days later, on Veterans Day, they took it down and burned it.
Administrators replaced the flag, but not before deciding they needed to placate the students and faculty feeling remorseful about the state of the Union. The flag was lowered to half-staff again, this time with the understanding that the flag would remain so for an indefinite period to protest the supposed rising tide of hatred and bigotry in the U.S. and the world.
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. Our decision has been seen as disrespectful of the traditional expression of national mourning, and has been especially painful to our Hampshire campus colleagues who are veterans or families of veterans.
That action didn't communicate that message and, since then, hundreds have complained about the college's lack of sensitivity for veterans and its disrespect for the flag.
The college's Facebook page is riddled with negative comments, many from military families and even some families of soldiers killed in combat since the war on terror began.
One reader wrote he was in a position to hire young people, but "if I happen to see a Hampshire College degree at any point in my life that application is going right in the round file [the trash]."
"This college cranks out entitled, out of touch, brats," he wrote.
Another respondent wrote the behavior of the students and the administrators shows they are "far removed from the costs of freedom."
"If they only knew what thousands have gone through, so that they can enjoy the freedoms they have. There is no doubt that our country has its warts and has, at times, done shameful things; we are all human and fallible. What we are seeing here is what I would call an extreme lack of gratitude. These students, and many of the social justice warriors who think like them, see only the warts of our country, and none of the beautiful things about it. As Alphonse Karr said, 'Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses," the man wrote.
Criticism of the school has been so harsh that its president, Jonathan Lash, issued a statement Nov. 22.
In it, he said the college's board of trustees had decided "some months ago" to lower the flag to half-staff periodically "to mourn deaths from violence around the world." He continued:
"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. This 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."
"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. Our decision has been seen as disrespectful of the traditional expression of national mourning, and has been especially painful to our Hampshire campus colleagues who are veterans or families of veterans."
Lash then wrote that some believed the action of lowering the flag was a commentary on the 2016 presidential election. He then claimed "this, unequivocally, was not our intent."
Lash then said since more consultation with the campus community was necessary before flying the flag in the future, administrators had decided that they would simply pull the flag down for an indefinite period of time.
The college president said he hoped having the flag out of sight would allow the college to focus its efforts on healing and addressing the "racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors" it believes are occurring in society.
Hampshire College enrolls 1,400 students and costs nearly $60,000 per year for tuition, room and board. The school also does not provide grades, feeling that they contribute to an air of competition. Instead, the school claims it offers "narrative evaluations" for students.