On Thursday, the University of California at Irvine student body government voted to ban all flags from the common lobby area of student government offices. This includes the American flag.
In a 6 to 4 vote, with two abstentions, the resolution was passed by the UC Irvine student legislative council. The bill argues that flags harbor much cultural significance, and in some instances they can elicit negative associations. In an effort to promote cultural inclusion, the statement says that flags – and the American flag specifically – has been "flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism" and they "serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism.”
The bill continued: “Freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible, can be interpreted as hate speech."
Is the move a revolutionary step towards inclusion or an unpatriotic act that could put the school’s government funding at stake?
While some agree that the resolution could have positive implications, many argue that it seems unnecessary. The bill will go before the executive branch of the campus’ Associated Students (ASUCI), the student government, where it is expected to be vetoed.
Associated Students President Reza Zomorrodian said he does not support the bill.
"Though I understand the authors' intent and supporters' intent," he wrote on the organization’s Facebook page. "I disagree with the solution council has come to."
The university has also issued a statement on their Facebook page informing students that flags are still flying on campus; they are only banned from the common area of the student government offices. Furthermore, the Facebook page states the “legislation is not endorsed or supported in any way by the campus leadership."
Joshua Nguyen, vice president for student services, said the problem with the bill becomes an issue of freedom of speech vs. inclusivity. Yes, the flag may have both positive and negative connotations, but only by the freedom it represents is this conversation possible.
“The only reason you can take down this flag is because of the liberties given to you by this flag,” said Nguyen, reported the Orange County Register.
From the over 1,000 comments on the ASUCI’s post about the decision, it appears a large percentage of the student body does not support the decision.
“As a UCI Alumna and a military veteran I am embarrassed and disappointed in this council's actions. I hope you understand the implications your actions have on the campus and in the community,” commented Gladys Valerie Rojas. The comment received over 850 likes.
According to the Orange County Register, State Sen. Janet Nguyen said she and some other legislators also disagree with the act. At this time, they are considering the introduction of a state constitutional amendment to prohibit "state-funded universities and college campuses from banning the United States flag.''
The UC Irvine student government's executive cabinet is reportedly meeting on Saturday to discuss and likely vote to veto the resolution. The five-person group needs a majority vote. If vetoed, the resolution would appear once again before the legislative council, which would need a two-thirds majority to override the veto.