Veterans upset over Hampshire College flag decision

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – We continue our coverage of Hampshire College’s controversial decision to remove the American flag from their campus flagpole.

The flag was lowered after the election and then someone burned it on Veterans Day. Then came the decision to remove the flag altogether.

“Talking about the history of our flag and what it means to us and what it means around the world. And the fact that it doesn’t mean that at Hampshire College is disturbing. It’s disappointing to me,” said Brian Willette, the Commander or the Military Order of the Purple Heart of western Massachusetts.

Brian Willette served in Afghanistan. He says he wrote Hampshire College President Johnathan Lash a letter.

“I would tell him that the flag guarantees his right to free speech, his students right to free speech and he should be proud to keep waving it on the campus,” said Willette.

“We have employees and students who are actively serving in the military right now,” said Hampshire College spokesman John Courtmanche. “This is not meant as an offense against veterans. We hope that veterans on our campus and in the community will share their feelings.”

22News went to the center of campus where the flagpole is bare. It is being stored in the facilities building. Courtmanche says the flag was only removed from the center flagpole and that people can display the flag in their own private space. An American flag is displayed at the college’s police department.

Hampshire College says they follow the U.S. flag code, which states the rules “Do not apply, as a matter of law, to the display by private individuals and organizations.”

Hampshire College told 22News they don’t know if flag ban will be permanent.

“I’m Not sure I am ready to say that. I don’t think I can represent the whole community at this point because the discussions are still happening so I am not quite sure what is going to happen from this dialogue,” said Courtmanche.

Despite their decision not to fly the U.S. flag, Hampshire College students do receive federal dollars. They get about $1,750,000 annually in Pell grant assistance and about $5,575,000 annually in federal direct subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.