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While the Harvard campus has been embroiled in debate this past week over the appearance of two Confederate flags and a swastika in House windows, Cornell University suspended its ban on the hanging of flags and banners on its buildings.
The decision was made after two first-year students, Nathaniel S. Brackett and Diane L. Scheu, attracted national media attention because they refused to take down an American flag and a yellow ribbon.
"In light of the situation in the Persian Gulf, it is clear that banning American or other flags is not something any of us feels comfortable doing," said Larry I. Palmer, Cornell's vice president for academic programs and campus affairs, in a New York Times interview. Palmer made the decision to suspend the ban.
The ban was included as a clause in the student housing contract three years ago in response to student protest over the hanging of a Confederate flag.
"We had dealt very carefully with that clause. We thought it was legal, we though it was the right thing for our university to do," Palmer told The Crimson yesterday.
He said the ban was imposed "because if people choose to demonstrate their views symbolically, that becomes confusing--for example, in the case of the Confederate flag, regional pride may be mistaken for racism."
Now, students can hang anything on Cornell buildings. Palmer said he had not seen any Confederate flags or swastikas since lifting the ban.
"So far, we've been very lucky. The worst thing that's happened is a banner criticizing University policy, and as far as I'm concerned, that's harmless," Palmer said.
But Scheu said she has already seen a Confederate flag hanging in a Cornell window.
"I'm not the type of person who gets offended by things like that," said Scheu, "but I know that some people would be."
And Brackett said that the policy change may open a can of worms, in which students will decide to display all sorts of potentially offensive symbols.
"I understand why [Palmer] has [changed] the rule, but I think it was a big mistake because now Nazi flags can be flown here, and nothing can be done about it," he said.
At Harvard, there has never been any such ban, and Brackett said that the Confederate flags hanging outside the rooms of Harvard students Bridget L. Kerrigan '92 and Timothy P. McCormack '91-'92 are offensive to many people.
"I wonder if they would be offended if someone flew an Iraqi flag to show Arab pride," he said.
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