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THE "SOUTHERN BELLE" AND HER CONFEDERATE FLAG

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

After sparking perhaps the largest controversy of last year, Brigid L. Kerrigan '91 told the Crimson: "[I'm] just a blonde girl from Virginia."

At the end of February, Kerrigan had hung a Confederate flag from her fourth-floor Kirkland House window facing Dunster Street.

And suddenly, the transplanted Southern belle launched her career as self-appointed defender of the First Amendment.

THEN Shortly after Kerrigan hung the flag, a group of more than 70 students gathered in the Kirkland dining hall to protest.

Kerrigan claimed the Confederate banner represented her pride in the customs and traditions of the South, but many felt that those traditions could not be separated from the South's "peculiar institution"--slavery.

In addition to the 70 who engaged in a Black Student Association-sponsored eatin in Kirkland, an equal number marched from Kirkland to Cabot, where Tim McCormack `92 had displayed yet another Confederate flag.

Even many of those on campus who respected Kerrigan's right to display the flag nevertheless said they found it offensive and requested that she remove it out of respect. One other student tried something different.

Jacinda T. Townsend `92 draped a Swastika from her window, hoping the University would force her, Kerrigan and McCormack to remove their banners.

The widespread protests and the concomitant condemnation, however, were futile. Long after Townsend had removed the swastika, Kerrigan's banner winked complacently at those she said were trying to infringe on her right to free speech.

The flag remained until early June after Kerrigan received her degree and left Cambridge.

NOW Does she have any regrets? "Absolutely not. Not for a minute," says Kerrigan, now a first-year student at the University of Virginia Law School.

"Through the publicity I gained, although most of it was negative, I've gotten to meet a number of people who are interested in educating for liberty."

Kerrigan's nationwide exposure on the CBS Evening News and in--among others--The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek helped win her a position as a guest lecturer at Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Va.

As part of Randolph-Macon's American Culture Program, Kerrigan spoke on "political correctness and free speech codes on campus," she says.

Kerrigan has also been asked to speak before various civic groups in the South.

"A free society demands a vigorous clash of ideas," Kerrigan says, explaining her lectures.

Kerrigan is quick to add, however, that she did not hang the flag as a media stunt. "I don't think anyone could have predicted the amount of publicity I got," she says.

"I believed that what I did was for the greater sake of American education," she said, "[by forcing people] to grapple with ideas they don't like to confront."

Even with her full schedule of speaking engagements, Kerrigan says she has been quite busy with law school.

"Studying the law is the best way to help me understand American political institutions," she says, adding that she is planning legal advocacy, not politics, as a career.

Despite being "persecuted" at Harvard, Kerrigan had positive things to say about her alma mater, lauding President Neil. L. Rudenstine's open letter which followed Peninsula's issue on homosexuality last fall.

Still, Kerrigan she has rediscovered her place in Virginia.

"It's great to be back in the South," she says.

She said that the issue that brought her into the spotlight at Harvard is a complete non-issue at home.

"I see Confederate flags every day. They hang near the corner grocery store and in fraternity windows. It's not that striking to see down here."

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