Hampshire College president bans media from talking to students, protesters from entering campus
By Evan Lips | November 30, 2016, 15:04 EST
AMHERST — The president of Hampshire College is digging in his heels and defending his school’s controversial decision not to fly the American flag on campus, having recently announced in a college-wide email that protesters will be banned from school grounds following Sunday’s demonstrations.
“The demonstration itself, was for the most part, peaceful,” President Jonathan Lash wrote in an email sent Tuesday, which was obtained by CampusReform.org. “But with so much outside attention and interest focused on our campus, we feel it’s wise to take precautions to increase our security.”
Lash proceeded to inform the Hampshire College community that “the media are prohibited from speaking directly to students” and that “no protestors [sic] will be allowed to come on campus.”
Lash’s announcement comes days after veterans demonstrated on the campus to protest the school’s decision. The series of events dates back to the immediate aftermath of Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election. The school initially responded to Trump’s win by lowering the American flag to half-staff. Days later, on the eve of Veterans Day, students reportedly took down the flag and proceeded to burn it. Lash then announced that the school would not be flying the flag at all “for the time being.”
In his Tuesday email, Lash stressed that he would not be ordering the flag to be flown again anytime soon, claiming the flag’s absence would help the school community to “focus our efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.”
Several of the region’s most prominent liberal leaders, however, are openly questioning the decision.
Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), who is gay, told the State House News Service he hopes “better sense will prevail” at the school and added that he is disappointed in the decision and plans to meet with Hampshire College’s leadership team.
U.S. Rep. James McGovern told MassLive.com that he too hopes school administrators will reconsider and described Hampshire College’s decision as “hurtful to many in our community.”
His Democratic colleague in Congress, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal — whose district includes Amherst — took to Facebook to urge the school to reconsider as well.
“Like the vast majority of Americans, I believe the First Amendment is one of our most important and cherished rights,” wrote Neal. “And the freedom of speech remains the cornerstone of our democracy.
“But as the students, faculty and administrators of Hampshire College continue to debate some of the challenges facing our country today, I would encourage them to do so while flying the American flag on their campus.”
Neal added that the flag “is not a divisive symbol” and instead represents “our unity, freedom and independence around the world.”