UPDATE 2: Saturday, Mar. 7; 4:45 P.M.: The ASUCI Executive Board has vetoed the flag-ban bylaw. Check page two for more information.
UPDATE: Friday, Mar. 6, 2015: Check the bottom for comments by ASUCI President Reza Zomorrodian and the possibilities of a veto.
The Associated Students of UC Irvine's legislative board voted yesterday to remove the US flag — and any other flag — from their lobby, citing a desire to make everyone feel included. Resolution R50-70 (which you can read by clicking that link, it has a ton of whereases in it), passed 6-4 with two people abstaining and four people absent and would resolve that “no flag, of any nation, may be hanged on the walls of the Associate Student main lobby space.”
That's the room in the Student Center behind the small terrace stage. Check after the jump for reactions and what happens next.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are upset. ASUCI President Reza Zomorrodian made a post on the ASUCI Facebook page late last night about his stance on by-law (he doesn't support it):
If you look at the replies to that post, you can see over a hundred comments from students, alumni, former leg council members, and random people, most whom are against the decision.
“As a UCI Alumni and a military veteran I am embarrassed and disappointed in this council's actions,” reads a comment by Gladys Rojas. “I hope you understand the implications your actions have on the campus and in the community.”
“Good job making UCI look like a joke in front of the rest of the country,” reads another by Alfred Mai.
As for why this was passed in the first place, well, here are all of the prior whereases I mentioned earlier:
Whereas flags are a symbol of a nation, are used as decorations and have a wide range of cultural significance.
Whereas flags are typically viewed as patriotic symbols of a single nation, are often associated with government and military due to their history and have a wide variety of interpretations.
Whereas the traditional patriotic interpretation of a flag is a result of a nation and/or persons who encourage a nationalistic understanding of the flag.
Whereas traditional understandings and ideologies, as encouraged by the national government, include liberty, democracy, constitution values and are up for interpretation on constituents.
Whereas flags not only serve as symbols of patriotism or weapons for nationalism, but also construct cultural mythologies and narratives that in turn charge nationalistic sentiments.
Whereas flags function specifically for a nation and
Whereas people are assimilated into national ideologies by deployment of this cultural artifact.
Whereas flags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.
Whereas symbolism is interpreted differently by different groups or persons based on individual unique experiences.
Whereas a common ideological understanding of the United states includes American exceptionalism and superiority.
Whereas the American flag is commonly flown in government public service locations, military related entities, at homes, in foreign lands where the US government has a presence.
Whereas the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism.
Whereas symbolism has negative and positive aspects that are interpreted differently by individuals.
Whereas displaying a flag does not express only selective aspects of its symbolism but the entire spectrum of its interpretation.
Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space is taken seriously by ASUCI
Whereas designing a culturally inclusive space aims to remove barriers that create undue effort and separation by planning and designing spaces that enable everyone to participate equally and confidently.
Whereas the removal of barriers is the best option at promoting an inclusive space.
Whereas it is a psychological effect for individuals to identify negative aspects of a space rather than positive ones.
Whereas whenever public spaces are produced and managed by narrow interests, they are bound to become exclusive places and
Whereas the planning process must be inclusive in such that designers are advised to forget about the 'average' user or themselves and instead begin the open space designing process with 'deep knowledge' of the preferences of the actual communities who are likely to use those spaces
Whereas designers should be careful about using cultural symbols as the symbols will inherently remain open for interpretation.
Whereas once an open space is created, it is important to employ continual evaluation in order to understand changing use patterns and needs over time.
Whereas a high-quality culturally inclusive spaces is essential in any society that embodies a dynamic and multifaceted culture
Whereas freedom of speech is a valued right that ASUCI supports.
Whereas freedom of speech, in a space that aims to be as inclusive as possible can be interpreted as hate speech.
So what's next? ASUCI's executive branch, which is made up of the ASUCI president and his (elected) cabinet, have the option to veto the by-law. They have six days from the passing to by-law to make that decision.
I've reached out both to the ASUCI president and the Matthew Guevara, the legislator that sponsored the resolution for comment.
In the meantime, UCI's PR people are on point:
Just got off of the phone with the ASUCI president. Here's what he had to say about the reaction he's got and a possible veto.:
“The very vocal opinion is people saying the flag should stay,” Zomorrodian said. “Now, I'm sure there are plenty of people who think the other way, but most of what I'm getting online and in person is people think it should stay up.”
“… The big item here is that our student government can exist because of what that flag represents, and it's the kind of thing we should keep around,” he continued.
The ASUCI Executive Board will convene a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the flag and several other issues. According to Zomorrodian, a veto is possible. To veto the by-law, the 3 of the 5 executive board members would have to vote yes.
The ASUCI Executive Board vetoed the bylaw banning the display of the US — or any flag — in the ASUCI common space today after an hour-long special session. The final vote total was 4 to 1 in favor.
“What we wanted to do today was to do what's best for the campus and most representative of the students,” President Reza Zomorrodian said. “A lot has happened yesterday and today. A lot of emotions have been expressed. We wished this was something that could happen year-round, but this is good.”
The vocal response was harsh yesterday, after the bylaw made national news. Threats of violence and deportation as well as more reasoned criticism was widespread. As of the beginning of the meeting, ASUCI's Facebook page had been bombarded by negative comments and one-star reviews.
“I understand the concern of the people who were upset,” Zomorrodian said. “For them, they flag is very much a representation of their ideals. You don't have to be an Anteater, or from the OC or California to feel this way. But I will say, anyone making violent or malicious threats were out of line. That's not respectable in civil society or civil debate. …UCI is a great school. It's unfortunate this legislation passed, but it's time to move on and think about what's happened. Irvine has good people. UCI has good people and great students.”
Another ASUCI legislative council meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 10. Resolution sponsor Matthew Guevara is expected the bring the issue back to the floor for a revote. To overturn the veto, the legislative board would need to have a two-thirds majority vote of all present members. The resolution originally passed 6-4 with two members abstaining and four members absent.