UC Irvine Vetoes Controversial American Flag Ban

by Clarissa-Jan Lim

The prevalence of the American flag in pop culture today has seen it make its mark on almost everything that capitalism has to offer on the most basic of levels — stamped on mugs, jean shorts, bumper stickers, in Lana Del Rey music videos, hung on the walls of ironic, beer-guzzling college students. But the flag caused unprecedented controversy in a South California academic community last week that led to UC Irvine vetoing a resolution banning the American flag on Saturday after a five-member Executive Cabinet that oversees the student government decided to reverse its passage by the student legislative council.

The cabinet said in a statement that it fundamentally disagreed with the council's actions, and criticized its passage of the resolution days before.

[The ban runs] counter to the ideals that allow us to operate as an autonomous student government organization with the freedoms of speech and expression associated with it. It is these very symbols that represent our constitutional rights that have allowed for our representative creation and our ability to openly debate all ranges of issues and pay tribute to how those liberties were attained.

Officials at the Southern California school announced Friday that six undergraduates in the student council had voted as a majority to ban the display of all national flags in the common area of student government offices, prompting angry responses from both the student body, members of the student government, and the UC Irvine administration. Composed by student Matthew Guevara, the resolution cited the flag's display "in instances of colonialism and imperialism" and serving "as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism."

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The denunciation of the ban came from all sides — Associated Students of UCI President Reza Zomorrodian expressed his opposition in a statement that was also posted on Facebook.

The UCI administration called the resolution a "misguided decision" and Chancellor Howard Gillman similarly condemned it harshly, pointing to the council's miniscule size in disproportionate representation of the school's large student body:

A few days ago, on a campus of more than 30,000 students, six of them expressed the view that no flags — not the American flag, and also not the flag of any other nation — should be displayed in a very small interior lobby area of the offices of student government. If these students were acting in a private capacity and expressing personal views then there would be no reason to pay attention. But these six students were acting in an official capacity... it was outrageous and indefensible that they would question the appropriateness of displaying the American flag on this great campus.

The resolution will return to the legislative council, which would now have to seek its passage with a two-thirds majority to override the veto, but considering the intense backlash — gleaned from the comments on ASUCI's Facebook posts on the resolution — the six students on the council who passed the bill might just back down from it.

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