Flap Erupts Over Placing Flags at University · 31 July 2003

By Steve Jordahl

Liberals at a Florida university campus oppose effort to place flags in classrooms and auditoriums.

A student group at the University of Central Florida (UCF) wants to purchase and place American flags in everyclassroom and auditorium on campus. But the members of the group Rebuilding on a Conservative Kornerstone, known as "ROCK," are being opposed by some liberal teachers and students.

ROCK has permission from the administration and will petition the student government this week for $7500 in student fees to buy the flags. Heather Smith, a spokeswoman for ROCK, said the flags belong in classrooms.

"It's a public university, it's paid for by tax dollars, and an American public institution," Smith said. "We're putting them in because they should be there."

But opponents of the plan say the flags might be used to stifle free speech in the classroom. Kevin Martin, of the campus group Peace Action, said students might mistake the flag as an endorsement of U.S. policies - specifically the War in Iraq.

"The concern is that the flag is a very emotional symbol and I think it can be sometimes appropriated by certain people to push a certain ideology or agenda or political issue that they want to push," Martin said.

Rick Parsons, a spokesman for the Young America's Foundation, said those who are opposed to placing the flag on campus are the ones with the agenda.

"When liberals don't like something that a conservative student group is doing, they want to stifle that speech," Parsons said. "They don't want to allow American flags to go up."

Smith remains unfazed by the opposition. In fact, she welcomes it.

"The symbol of the American flag is freedom," Smith said. "It also symbolizes your right to oppose it and also your right to support it."

She says the flag should not be used as a partisan symbol by either side.