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State rep to Hampshire College: Bring back the flag

A state representative called on Hampshire College’s president on Tuesday to reinstall the campus American flag, which was removed Friday after it was burned following the presidential election.

Hampshire President Jonathan Lash told the Globe Monday that the flag is “a disruptive symbol,” and was removed to focus efforts on addressing “racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ” behavior.

John Velis, who represents the Fourth Hampden District and who is an Army veteran, expressed his concern for the college’s decision, writing in a letter to Lash that the removal does not further “meaningful and effective dialogue” regarding targeted groups. In fact, it does “just the opposite,” he wrote.

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“Do I need to remind you, Mr. President, that discussions surrounding these above groups would not even be possible if not for the sacrifices of our service members and veterans,” he wrote. “Having the aforementioned discussion and respecting veterans are not mutually exclusive.”

In a statement reacting to Velis’ letter, John Courtmanche, a spokesman for the Amherst college, said that their goal in discussing the removal is to hear perspectives from different sides of the argument.

“We’ve heard from members of our community that ... the flag is a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up as people of color, never feeling safe,” Courtmanche said. “For others, it’s a symbol of their highest aspirations for the country.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the college said on its Facebook page that they would be disabling comments on the page through the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Hampshire College respects the recent surge of feedback and interest it has received,” the Facebook statement said. “As the College closes for Thanksgiving, our social media staff are on holiday break and are unable to respond to questions and to ensure posts adhere to community standards.”

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Lash said Monday that in the coming weeks, he and other faculty and staff plan to hold campus meetings to discuss differences in viewpoints about the flag.

“Our goal is to give voice to the range of viewpoints on campus across cultures, and hopefully find common ground,” he said.

As for Velis, there’s only one solution to his “deep concern,” he said.

“Mr. President,” he wrote. “Put back those flags.”


Samantha Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross