Should college students be threatened with expulsion for hanging the American flag from the balcony of their on-campus apartment?
Sophomore Cameron Box and junior Connor Fenwick received a notice from San Diego State University that their hanging of the American flag, the US Coast Guard flag, and the US Army flag violate school policy and could result in a maximum penalty of expulsion from the school. Box is active duty Coast Guard, and Fenwick is an aspiring Army officer.
They told ABC affiliate KGTV about the letter and potential for expulsion.
Box stated: “We’re just being proud of what we’re affiliated with.They’re trying to say it’s a fire hazard, but it just doesn’t make much sense.”
Fenwick added: “Why can’t we have our First Amendment rights?”
The letter they received states that the students “may be expelled, suspended, placed on probation, or given a lesser sanction.” It adds that these consequences are not being currently pursued; rather, the students “are being issued a formal warning for this incident.”
The SDSU on-campus living agreement does specify that “Hangings, partitions, or curtains of any type may not be used on balconies or patios.”
Beth Chee, media relations manager at SDSU, said that “Any item, regardless of content, hanging from a balcony is considered a safety and security issue because of its potential to block visibility.” She notes that students are free to hang what they would like inside the apartment.
In a Change.org petition directed to California Governor Jerry Brown and the SDSU administrators, Box and Fenwick argue against the school’s interpretation.
According to Fenwick in the petition, he contends that the flags are techinically not “hangings, partitions, or curtains.” He argues they are not partitions because they are not used to divide an area, they are not curtains which are used to shut out light or increase privacy, and, finally, they are not hangings because they are firmly attached and do not move.
Fenwick writes that campus safety is not the primary concern of SDSU in this case. Rather, the school “lacks the moral backbone to support cases such as mine and is too lazy to deal with other students who may take offense to a flag being portrayed in a residential setting.”
What do you think? Should the students be threatened with expulsion for hanging a US flag from the balcony?