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November 22, 2016

President Jonathan Lash,

I am writing today to express my deep concern over Hampshire College's decision to stop
flying all flags, and particularly the American Flag, on your campus. It is unfortunate that this
comes on the heels of the flag burning that occurred on Veterans' Day. As a concerned citizen
and a veteran, I am profoundly upset that your administration has labeled the American Flag a
"disruptive symbol."
It defies logic to purport that the removal of flags is any kind of a prerequisite to a
meaningful and effective dialogue addressing "racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, antiimmigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors." As a matter of fact, it is just
the opposite in many ways. It is an absolute absurdity to imply that the display of our flag can
incite disruptive behavior. Firstly, there is no brand name, no ethnicity, no race, no sexual
orientation, or gender identity attached to this flag- we are all in this together. Secondly, this socalled "disruptive symbol" represents the compelling basis upon which the right even to
"address" these issues exists.
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. Having
the aforementioned discussion and respecting veterans are not mutually exclusive. I could not
ignore the statement made by a student from your institution in which he referred to service
members and police as "oppressors." At the risk of telling you something you already know,
these so-called "oppressors" are the very reason why the freedom of expression is not censured
or suppressed in our nation. They are the reason that the freedoms your students are exercising
are protected.

In this Thanksgiving season, let us show respect to those who have disrupted their own
lives to ensure your students' safety and freedom of expression and acknowledge the disruption
caused to the families who are receiving their loved ones in a flag-draped coffin.

Mr. President, put back those flags.

Sincerely,

John Velis
State Representative
4th Hampden District