Adam Blaustein Rejto
[The Office of the President] The American flag on campus was lowered Wednesday, February 17, 2016 in honor of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia after he died on Saturday, February 13, 2016, following an afternoon of quail hunting. The president’s office at Hampshire got an executive order from President Obama, and the governor of Massachusetts, saying that the flag should be lowered on all public grounds nationwide. The school is by no means required to lower the flag.
While serving on the Supreme Court, he interpreted policy at the expense women’s reproductive rights, gay marriage, the environment and affordable health care. This is just to name a few of his narrow-minded policy interpretations that excluded and oppressed millions of Americans. He supported the corporate funding of political campaigns, the death penalty and sought to protect the rights of corporations over our rights to privacy, time and time again. He continuously prioritized the well-being of wealthy, corporate power over the citizenry the Constitution was designed to protect.
He was a real asshole.
So why, as a private liberal arts college that promotes anti-racist/classist/sexist, politics, would we choose to lower our flag to half-staff for Antonin Scalia, a man that continuously argued in favor of a system that excludes and oppresses millions of Americans?
We see this as a continuation of the neglectful administrative decisions that were brought to light in November of last year following the terrorist attacks by the Islamic state in both Beirut and Paris. The flag was lowered to half-staff at Hampshire College following the Paris attacks on Friday, November 13, 2015 when the whole world stood in solidarity. All of this occurred without mention of the double suicide attack in Beirut that killed 43 people and injured over 200, just one day before the Paris attack.
The faculty of color at Hampshire College disseminated an open letter to the college to express their discontent for the pointed neglect of the tragedy in Lebanon and the selective attention paid to the attack on Paris. This letter criticized the administration of the college, saying:
“The proximity of these two incidents and the disparity in responses reaffirmed what has long been known to feminists, queer theorists and to those who work in critical race and ethnic studies. Not all bodies are equally grievable in the world we inhabit. Not all lives matter equally. Not all cities and nations receive global solidarity when they suffer.”
The administration, in response to this letter, sent out an apologetic email placing the blame on a single faculty member who represents the Board of Trustees, who “missed” the fact that her actions reflected her Eurocentric bias and communicated that not all lives matter equally.
By choosing to lower the flag to half-staff, once more, without the values of the students and faculty in mind, the President’s Office and the Board of Trustees is acting in opposition of the active “anti -ism” politics we supposedly promote at this school. It shows that we, as a school, are willing to grieve the life of the man who stands in the way of our rights as individuals in this country, while we ignore countless acts of violence and oppression regularly. This is a clear demonstration of the blatant disconnect that exists between our administration and the communities on campus.
This cannot be another “mistake” that the administration brushes off. This is a chance for us to see, again, how the administration has failed to think about their representation of the interests and values of students, faculty, and staff at Hampshire.