Officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the semi-prestigious flagship school of the state’s college system, attempted to prohibit a student-led memorial honoring victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks this week by claiming that it could interfere with campus lawn-care efforts.
Forceful pushback by students led the administrators to back down — quickly, reports The College Fix.
The University of Illinois chapter of the College Republicans initially approached the administration weeks ago to request permission to plant 2,977 small American flags close together on the quad to honor the 2,977 people who died during terrorist attack (including over 400 police officers and firefighters).
Dementro Powell, an assistant director for student programs and activities at the taxpayer-funded school, declined the request.
According to Chris Piper, president of the campus College Republicans chapter, Powell claimed that planting the small flags on the quad would obstruct with the “irrigation system” and might negatively affect the administration’s lawn care efforts.
Piper observed that each of the miniature flags would be pushed half an inch in the ground. However, Powell was unmoved.
According to Piper, the university official suggested that the College Republicans could place the 2,977 flags in 2,977 cups of sand or in 2,977 individual cardboard foundations. In any case, the flag sticks could not enter the ground.
In an email obtained by the Fix, Piper responded by noting that either alternative would “be a great cost and inconvenience.”
Piper also observed that the College Republicans had planted exactly the same flag memorial on the University of Illinois quad in 2012.
Despite his concerns about flags sticking half an inch in the ground on the quad, Powell also proposed that the College Republicans spread the flags out on the quad instead of putting them in a central place. The student activities assistant failed to explain how spreading the flags throughout the quad would diminish any harm to the irrigation system.
On Tuesday, the administration was still insisting that there would be no centralized memorial honoring the people who died as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The College Republicans responded with a grassroots effort. Hundreds of students overwhelmed the University of Illinois chancellor’s office with calls demanding that the 9/11 memorial be allowed.
In short order, school officials caved. Powell, the assistant director for student programs, was overruled.
“Thank you to everyone that has shown such great support of our effort to hold a 9/11 memorial on the Quad,” the College Republicans Facebook page announced late Wednesday afternoon. “Your efforts have been noticed by us and the University. Thankfully, we have reached an agreement that will allow us to place all 2,977 flags for each victim on the Quad on Friday. Without your support, this would not have been accomplished.”