If you thought that something as innocuous as putting up 3,000 American flags on school grounds to pay tribute to those murdered on September 11 couldn’t be controversial, you haven’t been to Marietta College.
Administrators at this liberal arts college in southeast Ohio are threatening to cancel a 9/11 memorial planned by their students if flags from other countries are not observed in the activities as well
“I was taken aback by this decision,” said Sarah Snow, an Alabama native and junior at Marietta. “Our school should help students put on events, not set up obstacles, especially when we’re trying to honor those fallen.”
It all started when Snow, the president of the Marietta College Republicans, approached her Student Life department to get approval to participate in the 9/11 Never Forget Project. In addition to organizing a candlelight vigil, Snow sought to plant 3,000 American flags around campus starting this Sunday morning. She received approval from the Office of Student Life on June 23, more than two months ago. But when she returned to campus for the fall semester, days before the memorial was to begin, the vice president of Student Life, Robert Pastoor, vowed to terminate the tribute unless foreign flags were mixed together with American ones.
“He [Robert Pastoor] insisted we add the international flags for the reason that it was a ‘global perspective’ school,” Snow told HUMAN EVENTS in explaining Pastoor’s basis for interfering with the College Republicans’ memorial. He continued, she noted, by saying, “Other nationalities were killed in the twin towers as well” and that Marietta must “consider how the Muslim and Chinese students will feel about the [American flag] display.”
Pastoor did not return a call and an e-mail requesting comment.
While Marietta is arguing that the inclusion of other nations is consistent with the school’s “global” emphasis, critics see this as yet another example of college bureaucrats genuflecting to leftist orthodoxy.
“Instead of embracing the remembrance of the thousands of innocents who were murdered on 9/11, many college administrators—insensitive to the families and friends of those who died on 9/11—are more interested in creating political correctness tests than coming together to honor the victims of the jihadist attacks,” said Ron Robinson, president of Young America’s Foundation, the organization that’s planning the 9/11 Never Forget Project at high schools and colleges across the country. “Colleges trip over themselves in excitement when they plan Earth Day, yet every year, these same institutions put up roadblock after roadblock for students seeking to do something as meaningful as remembering 9/11,” he added.
Snow told HUMAN EVENTS that there weren’t any foreign students at Marietta who complained to her about the placing of nearly 3,000 small American flags around campus, and that the school’s intervention was entirely driven by its own administration. “Those in Student Life were the only ones opposing the selection of American flags. My Saudi Arabian peers were even sympathetic, telling me, ‘It’s 9/11. We understand why you want to do it [use only American flags].’”
Tom Perry, the executive director of college relations at Marietta, told HUMAN EVENTS that the Office of Student life made a “request” to the College Republicans asking them to incorporate other flags as a way to foster diversity amongst the student body. Adherence was not mandatory. The American flags were never in jeopardy of being removed, he argued.
However, in emails obtained by HUMAN EVENTS, it’s clear that Marietta College officials were demanding that international flags be a part of the display. On August 30th, the Director of Student Activities wrote the following to Snow: “… are you planning to include other countries flags? There were more than just Americans that lost their lives on 9/11. I will send you a list of the other countries so that you can add these flags to the presentation.” And in a follow-up email, that same director gave a “list of the countries that will need to have flags as part of the 9/11 remembrance,” which included Australia, Bermuda, Canada, China, El Salvador, Germany, Grenada, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
It was either showcase international flags or no 9/11 exhibit, said Snow. She decided to go with the former.
Meanwhile, Marietta officials are hosting 9/11 events on their own, but those activities pertain to how American Muslims are treated in a post-9/11 world. On Sept. 13, for instance, the school is organizing a “Pizza & Politics” forum to discuss “how Muslims in the U.S. see/experience freedom of speech.” The following day, there will be a faculty-led talk “on the misconception of the Arab-Muslim culture in the Western world, and the stereotypes Muslims experience in the U.S.”