Application Denied for Traditional Display
The Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Southern Methodist University followed the proper procedures needed to apply for their annual Never Forget display on the Dallas Hall Lawn, formally requesting the space for nearly 3,000 American flags covering the open area as part of their 9-11 commemoration and remembrance of those killed in the historic attack.
In a late July reply, the group received a dramatic change in venue in which administrators cited that the University “respects the right of all members of the community to avoid messages that are triggering, harmful, or harassing,” thereby making the decision to move the annual display to the smaller area of MoMac Park, farther from the iconic main building of the campus.
Other displays that could be “triggering” include those that discuss abortion, the letter says.
The Young Americans for Freedom group responded:
“We are witnessing the degradation of the mission of higher learning at universities across the country because of policies like this. The question we ask is this: how can students change the world if they don’t have the opportunity to share and express their closely held values and beliefs?”
Conservative Push Back
This policy change resulted in a cascade of coverage by local and national media. The University was inundated with negative reactions from Conservative groups, alumni donors, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott:
“This display is not political. It is not partisan. It is not controversial.
This is about our nation united.
Each flag represents a life taken, the soul of a family destroyed. Yet each flag also represents a symbol of hope, for as a people united we remain unbowed.
I ask that the 9/11 display not be relegated to a far corner of campus. It should be celebrated in its heart.
As SMU is shaping the future leaders of our state, our nation and our world, I would hope we are teaching them about the importance of civil and civic participation.
We must never forget.”
On August 9, SMU representatives announced a revision to their original decision, as reported by dallasnews.com:
All one-day displays will now be placed on the northern section of the Dallas Hall lawn. Displays lasting up to three days will go on the southern section of the lawn.
“This agreement provides dedicated spaces for lawn displays while also preserving open spaces for studying, classes, events, and recreation,” the university said in a written statement Tuesday. “The goal is to balance the needs of all campus community members in use of this historic space.”
SMU said it also plans to consult with student groups as it reviews and amends its policies regarding the displays.