Lots of questions have been raised since Bridget Kerrigan first hung a Confederate flag from a window in her Kirkland room three weeks ago. Is her action a fierce display of Southern pride, or is it a disingenuous attention-getting ploy? Is she really an ardent Southerner?...
Bridget L. Kerrigan '91 has provoked a march, angry eat-ins, heated shouting matches and several highly disapproving statements from University administrators, including President Derek C. Bok.
Indeed, her hanging of a Confederate flag from her fourth-floor Kirkland House suite three weeks ago has given rise to a number of questions, many of which remain largely unanswered.
Is her action, as she claims, simply a display of fierce southern pride and a desire to spark debate? Or is it a disingenuous attention-getting ploy designed as a springboard for a political campaign on a conservative ticket? And in fact, is she really an ardent Southerner, or is she using that identity as a guise, an excuse for causing the current controversy?
The answer depends largely on whom you ask. Like the Confederate flag, her name provokes strong and conflicting opinions from anyone within range.
Ask Kerrigan, and she'll tell you she's "just the average blonde girl from Virginia," a watchdog making sure that she, as a Southerner, gets the respect she deserves from the Harvard community.
"The fact is, I'm diversity, and Harvard is having a pretty hard time accepting me," she says. "For all the diversity that Harvard claims, this is Brahmin Yankee monoculturalism here."
Kerrigan says she is glad she has stirred up a spirited political debate, but that she is disappointed with how those around her have reacted. "I've been extremely saddened by the public actions of my house master and tutor, when I think they should not have come down on either side of a matter of opinion," Kerrigan says.
Kerrigan, who transferred from the University of Virginia after her sophomore year, is no stranger to controversies at Harvard. Last year, she hung a Confederate flag from her window in Peabody Terrace, until her superintendent asked her to remove it, a move she says "disillusioned" her.
In addition, Kerrigan is one of the charter members of Peninsula, a campus conservative magazine, many of whose positions have themselves stirred up much debate since the periodical's inception last year.
Katherine J. Florey '92, who lived with Kerrigan last year in Peabody Terrace, says that Kerrigan "knew what she was getting herself into" by hanging the flag. Nonetheless, Florey adds, "she's very committed to what she believes."
Others, however, are less charitable in assessing her motivations. "I know she likes being in the limelight," says Nigel W. Jones '91, a Kirkland resident. "I know she wants people writing about her and that's why she hung the flag."
For her part, Kerrigan says that while she may be flamboyant, she is not out to seek attention simply for its own sake. "This is not an ego trip for me," Kerrigan says. "This is not the start of a political campaign."
Florey, however, says she thinks Kerrigan will eventually seek political office. "I always joke with her that she's going to end up in Congress," Florey says. "Even though she denies it, part of her hopes she will."
But Kerrigan maintains she is not a candidate for any political office, and that such a concern has not factored into her decision to create the recent controversy.