Fear of retaliation keeping some at Hampshire College silent

Campus community member says those who want to have flag back are afraid to speak-up

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Hampshire College has been a hostile environment since its President removed the American Flag from the center of campus after the election, according to one person who is on campus almost every day.

The 22News I-Team spoke to a person affiliated with the college on Wednesday night.  They did not want to be identified due to fear of retaliation.  We will say that the person is either a student or member of the faculty or staff.  They are among the people who never wanted the flag taken down in the first place.

“We were never consulted about the removing of the flag and people assume that everyone agrees with that and it is not that case, it is a very stressful environment,” said the person speaking to 22News on the condition of anonymity.

Continuing Coverage: Hampshire College flag controversy

On Tuesday, Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash sent out a survey to students, staff and faculty asking for their opinion; more than two weeks after the flag was removed from the center of campus.

The day after the presidential election, students lowered the American flag to half-staff.  The administration decided to allow the flag to remain at half-staff.

“The flag at half-staff is of significance when an important person dies, a veteran dies, someone who fought for us- for everybody, not because a president was elected and people disagreed with it,” said the person speaking to 22News on the condition of anonymity.

They continue, “He (President Lash) did not consult anybody, he made the decision to put the flag at half-staff after the election and tried to deny the reason why he did that.  He did just that by himself, and that was a poor decision.”

A day after the flag was initially lowered to half-staff, the American flag was burned.  The president of the college immediately replaced the flag and it continued to fly at half-staff.  Within a week, President Lash sent out an email saying the flag would be removed.  In the email it stated, “some have perceived the action of lowering the flag as a commentary on the results of the Presidential election. This, unequivocally, was not our intent.”

There was not a campus-wide ban on the flag, but the person we spoke with told the I-Team that hostility against those who want the flag flown has increased since the flag was removed.

Hundreds of veterans protested this decision on Sunday. Another protest is planned for this Sunday if the flag is not raised by then.

“A lot of students are afraid to say that they disagree, because the other students will bully them.  They can be very rude, it is the same thing with the faculty, the staff and the students,” said the person speaking to 22News on the condition of anonymity.

The person the I-Team spoke with said that the students and staff who oppose the President’s decision to remove the flag are not speaking up because of a fear of retaliation and that staff members may lose their jobs.

“We will be bullied by the students and bullied by the other people who believe the flag doesn’t need to be there,” said the person speaking to 22News on the condition of anonymity.

The college says they are also receiving hateful messages due to their decision to lower the flag.   Hampshire College spokesman John Courtmanche sent us this statement:

Hampshire has heard heated response from across the country to our college administration’s decision to temporarily lower the flag. Some offices here have received hate-filled messages related to the absence of a flag, which have been upsetting to read.  As a precaution, we have enhanced our campus security since safety is our primary concern. Offices here have also received messages of support from across the region and country as well. Hampshire works hard to create a civil environment where differing points of view can be shared, respected and discussed.  Even on campus we’re hearing a range of differing opinions and viewpoints from our staff, faculty and students.

Not everyone in the Hampshire College community agrees with President Lash’s decision, either, and there are people on campus who want the flag raised again.

“We would like to tell him (President Lash) and we would like him to make a statement about what he did was his own decision, it was his own mistake and it was not everyone involved with Hampshire College,” said the person speaking to 22News on the condition of anonymity.

College Spokesman John Courtmanche also told 22News that no decision has been made about when or if they will raise the flag again.