Lawmakers propose amendment to prevent banning of US flags at state universities, colleges

Kayla Baskevitch/Staff

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State lawmakers announced Monday that they plan to propose an amendment to the state constitution Wednesday that will prohibit state-funded universities and colleges from banning the display of U.S. flags on their campuses.

The announcement was made at a press conference in Sacramento, at which the proposal’s leader — State Senator Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove — spoke, along with several other lawmakers and veterans. This proposal was prompted by a resolution passed by the ASUC Irvine Legislative Council last week, which bans the hanging of all flags, including the U.S. flag, on the walls of the ASUCI’s lobby space.

The resolution, which has since been vetoed by the ASUCI’s executive board, was passed in order to promote a “culturally inclusive space.” The resolution said the U.S. flag can be interpreted negatively because it has “been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.”

“As an immigrant, I (could not) stand before you today as senate senator if it were not for the ideals of the flag and what it represents,” Nguyen said at the press conference. She added that although the resolution has been vetoed, the amendment is still necessary to prevent similar resolutions from passing in the future.

In a statement posted on the ASUCI’s Facebook page by the legislative council, the council apologized “for neglecting to consider the greater implications of our actions” and said it does not plan to override the executive veto.

The council, however, stressed that the original resolution was only in response to a U.S. flag that was put up in its lobby anonymously, which led to weeks of conflict wherein several students tried to take the flag down. They said in the statement that their only intention was to “resolve the problem by reverting things to the way they were before, when the common space had no flags and no conflict.”

Pavan Upadhyayula, the ASUC president, said although he understands that the United States is “not the greatest (actor) in the world,” he believes that a better way to deal with matters is to encourage a dialogue about the U.S. flag, what it represents and why it was put up in the first place.

Kevin Sabo, the board chair of the University of California Student Association, said he is glad that the situation has led to a conversation about the inconsistency between what the United States stands for and what it actually does, but believes the legislative council did not have to pass a resolution for this “small” issue.

None of the members of the ASUCI nor Nguyen could be reached for comment.

If the bill is passed by the California Legislature, it will be placed on the November 2016 ballot for voter approval.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.