AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – An American flag on campus of Hampshire College was burned overnight.
Hampshire College Media Relations and Editorial Director John Courtmanche told 22News that the same flag, which flies from a pole on campus, had been lowered to half-staff by students on Wednesday. An e-mail sent-out to students and faculty by Secretary of the College Beth Ward said the lowering of the flag was undertaken by students who “felt deep anger and fear in response to the election results.”
Courtmanche said that the college allowed the flag to remain flying at half-staff through the day on Thursday, but the intention was to raise it to full-staff on Friday, out of respect for the Veterans Day holiday, and all who have served in the military. At some point in the night, however, the flag had been burned.
“We are deeply saddened that we are not able to fly the flag today in their (veterans’) honor, and we acknowledge the anger and hurt many will feel both because the flag is absent and the reason for its absence,” Ward’s letter states.
“Discussions about the flag are the purview of the Board of Trustees, a responsibility our trustees take very seriously. The trustees had already planned to talk about the questions raised by a number of members of the community regarding the flag, and will still do so. We will communicate with the campus soon about the next steps.”
Courtmanche said that a new flag was raised Friday morning to replace the one that had been burned, but 22News spoke with local veterans who were disappointed by this action. Veterans at the American Legion of Hadley said they are proud to have fought for our rights, but they’re upset to see how flags are being used to express disrespect for our country.
Vietnam veteran Max Wojtowicz told 22News the American flag isn’t just a piece of replaceable fabric; “A lot of people really don’t know what that means. I don’t want to say they really don’t care, but it’s disappointing.”
On Wednesday, Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash had issued a letter to members of the college community, saying that he felt “both anguish and sadness” following the outcome of the election, and saying that he understands some students may be feeling troubled about Donald Trump’s victory.
“I am particularly concerned about members of our community who felt themselves specifically targeted during a hateful campaign by repeated racist, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and misogynistic statements. We saw a candidate mock people with disabilities and deal in anti-Semitic innuendo, heedless of the pain and harm that he caused,” Lash wrote.
Lash had declined to cancel classes at Hampshire College following the election, but counseling sessions were offered for students, and a post-election discussion was held on campus Thursday night.
Courtmanche said Friday night the university plans to issue a statement sometime Saturday morning. 22News will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest, on-air and WWLP.com, as soon as we have it.