AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – For the last two weeks, there’s been no flag flying at the campus center at Hampshire College.
College President Jonathan Lash said the flag was burned the night before Veteran’s Day, in response to the election results. He said the college chose not to put up a new one, to allow for campus-wide dialogue.
It’s a decision that’s led thousands to sign an online petition. The online petition was made in response to the college’s decision to remove the flag from the main flagpole in the center of campus. It calls on both the President and Congress to freeze all federal funding for the school.
“It is the American flag and we are America, we should support our troops that are overseas fighting for our freedom,” said Andrew Williams of Chicopee.
At least 1,000 veterans protested outside the college Sunday.
“Our part Sunday was to bring our veterans, our concerned members and volunteers alike to the flag rally to demand that the flag go back up,” said Brian Willette, Commander of the Purple Heart in Western Massachusetts, Chapter 875. “The free discussion on campus about the meaning of the flag, we’d like to be part of that discussion.”
College spokesman John Courtmanche said President lash was not available for an interview, and the school had no comment on the online petition.
Early Tuesday morning, President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted that there should be consequences for burning the flag. Possibly including a loss of citizenship or a year in jail.
Hampshire College sent 22News this statement Tuesday regarding the veterans’ protest on Sunday:
Sunday morning before the demonstration by veterans outside our campus, Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash met with the VFW Amherst leaders organizing the demonstration. President Lash acknowledged their right to demonstrate, and expressed his regret that a still unknown person or persons had burned the college’s flag overnight before Veteran’s Day, the incident is still under active investigation.
President Lash listened respectfully to the views of the veterans, and explained that the Hampshire College community includes a wide range of views including employees and students who have served or are currently serving in the US military. President Lash emphasized that by not flying a flag on our college’s flagpole for the time being, the College is seeking to enable a discussion of values among all members of our campus, not make a political statement.
Our primary mission is education, and we see this conversation on campus as an important learning opportunity for all of us on campus.