By Sarah Snow – Marietta College
Fighting the “good fight” on college campuses is tough, but someone’s got to do it. At my school, this usually consists of a small group of my peers speaking our beliefs, and being called “crazy conservatives.”
If we do events on our own, we’re scorned for not uniting with the liberals. If we try to voice our opinion through posters, they get ripped down. Finding an advisor is hard work, but finding members who want to be affiliated with us is even harder. Students want to get good grades and be liked by teachers, and it’s harder to do these with a liberal faculty, so they stay “closet conservatives.”
In the past these have been minor setbacks, and then we moved on. However, this year, when the setback came two days into the semester, I’d had enough.
Fighting for the 9/11: Never Forget Project
All summer my student group has been planning our 9/11: Never Forget Project and it had been approved since June. On the first day back, I stopped by the Student Life office to confirm all plans were still a go for our American flag memorial and candlelight vigil. They confirmed, and I was surprised at how smoothly it all played out.
I was right to be surprised.
The next day, I received an email stating that the vigil was no longer allowed, and the American Flag Garden could only be displayed if we also presented the flags of every other country that also experienced a loss on 9/11 (Over 90 countries).
Was 9/11 an attack on diversity?
My jaw dropped as I read the email. How could they expect our club to pay for other flags? First of all, we had not budgeted for it. Second, why was it just now being sprung onto me when they’ve known for months?
Finally, why should we place the extra flags anyways? It was an attack on AMERICANS, AMERICAN ideals, AMERICAN capitalism, defense, and freedom. The World Trade Center wasn’t hit because a Chinese accountant was working that morning; it was hit because American capitalists were there. As for the vigil, I was even more baffled. There was literally no reason noted in the email that warranted the cancellation of the event.
I immediately walked into the Student Life office and began making my case. They began throwing out the typical “P.C.” nonsense that I expected. “We have a global outlook at this school and we cannot ignore the Chinese and Muslim students who also suffered losses.” “We need to look at all aspects of the event so there isn’t a negative reaction from the International Students.”
They threw out their reasoning for the flags and yet no good reason for the vigil cancellation had appeared. They sent me out of the office with no sufficient answers and told me to email the faculty member who had made the decision.
How to win the battle
At this point I felt powerless and inferior. I took a moment to collect myself and then rallied the troops. The next 24 hours were very important. I emailed my advisor and he emailed the President of the College. I also contacted 9/12 groups and Young America's Foundation who both presented me with advice and leverage. Then I waited for a response from the administration.
By the next day, I had received an email inviting me to a meeting to discuss the decision. I prepared my logic and facts all day, and showed up with my Treasurer to defend the 9/11: Never Forget Project. The meeting went by quickly with a few raised voices and conflicting ideas, but in the end, we agreed on the initial plan for the event with the small caveat that the other flags would have to be added at the expense of the school.
It is obvious that the board’s assumptions and skewed facts paired with bad communication caused for this whole situation to be blown out of proportion. I’m appreciative that the decision was overturned, and we now get to host this event. But, it should have never been an issue to begin with.
If this happens at your school, I urge you to fight. I encourage you to find community allies or call YAF to get your point made. Like I said before, it’s a tough job—but someone’s got to do it and it might as well start with you.
Sarah Snow is a student at Marietta College.