American Flag Disrupts Inclusivity
In mid-January, an American flag was hung by an ASUCI Executive Cabinet member, Joshua Nguyen, randomly after being used as decor for an American-themed retreat for Student Services’ office party. Concerned student(s) then respectfully took down the flag and folded the item in “military” style and placed the flag on the desk of the Office of the President with an explanatory note. One can only assume those who did this believed the ASUCI president Reza Zomorrodian to be responsible for the display of the flag. The flag was then hung back up in the lobby space, only later be taken down again. The Executive Cabinet as a whole decided to put up the flag for the third time and taped a letter explaining the reason why the flag can be hung in communal spaces. The letter made by Executive Cabinet neglects to inform the student body that the reason the flag was displayed was as a leftover prop after a party and held no political or nationalistic ideas about America, but rather the lack of idea on what to do with the decor. The flag as decor had no meaning to the office except as a decorative item for a party. Not too long ago, the Executive Cabinet decided to take down the flag immediately before the legislation was brought forward for reasons not fully disclosed. However, there is doubt that the reasons have to do with the concerns of their constituents.
On Thursday, March 5, ASUCI Legislative Council, a body of appointed and elected undergraduate students who are responsible for amending the ASUCI Constitution, by-laws and approving the ASUCI budget for the academic year, came together to approve or reject a legislation on the presence of flags in the ASUCI lobby space. This piece of legislation, called R50-70 Flags and Decoration Adjustment for Inclusivity, was authored by School of Social Ecology representative Matthew Guevara and seconded by School of Humanities representative Khaalidah Sidney. The bill advocated for the removal of flags in the lobby area after their constituents and other students voiced concerns about its new presence in the space.
The two members who authored the piece of legislation acted accordingly to represent their constituents’ feelings and concerns as described in their duties. Some of these concerns include but are not limited to: being triggering to students who are undocumented and to whom the flag represents a constant struggle to gain American citizenship, being a triggering symbol of U.S. imperialism and neo-colonialism and also as potentially disrespectful to the increasing international student population. The legislation calls for the ASUCI lobby space to remain the same, as it was before the flag was hung up, to maintain tranquility in the space. In addition, the legislation aims to promote a community space open for everyone of all backgrounds and identities to walk in freely and not be discouraged to engage with an entity on campus that is new to them. It is important to mention that these concerns were brought up after the flag was hung up in the communal space. ASUCI has never had a flag in the common space and no one has ever advocated for its presence in the space before. The removal of the flag was not offensive, as the lack of the flag in the space was never seen as offensive to anyone to begin with.
Flags are welcomed and encouraged in the executive offices and all other locations on campus. It is a recognized fact what flags represent. There is a heavy association with the military and the wonderful patriots of this country. Patriots are deeply appreciated for their commitment and they are encouraged to come to the associate student suite with any symbols they desire.
ASUCI President Reza Zomorrodian posted online through his personal social media account and later an official statement for the University of California, Irvine condemning the passing of the legislation. Although his intentions were to inform people of his disapproval from a personal perspective, Zomorrodian chose to ignore students’ voices and their concerns about the flag.
The legislation stands for the student voices who have lobbied for the presence of flags in all other spaces except the communal open lobby in ASUCI. They have lobbied for over a month and a half to have this legislation and their voices have been heard and voted on. The vote was in the favor of an ideologically free, inclusive and safe space. The world is an ugly place, as evidenced by the harassing and derogatory response, but ASUCI will remain a safe haven.
Khaalidah Sidney and is a fourth-year Asian American studies and African American studies double major and a member of Leg. Council. She can be contacted at email@example.com.