The University of Kansas took down a defaced American flag and placed it in an art museum on Wednesday after receiving backlash from the community.
As previously reported by The Daily Caller News Foundation, the American flag was contoured with a divided American in black. The message behind the flag was against the Trump administration’s decisions surrounding immigration and withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol and United Nation’s Human Rights Council, as said by artist Josephine Meckseper on Creative Time’s website. (RELATED: University Of Kansas Flies Defaced Flag In The Name Of Art)
Conservative students on campus expressed disdain on social media over the flag on Tuesday, resulting in community members filing complaints to the university. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer alongside Secretary of State Kris Kobach, both Republicans, also called on the university to take down the flag.
“It was disrespectful to have something like that on permanent display on campus,” Colyer said, according to an ABC News report. Colyer also went so far as to call Chancellor Doug Girod on the phone to take down the flag.
University spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson told ABC News that the flag was flown to encourage conversation, but student and veteran Ian Appling disagreed that the flag started effective conversation.
“It just created more arguments, division, and reinforced hyper-partisanism,” Appling said to TheDCNF.
Since the flag was taken down, controversy brewed about the university’s decision.
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a non-partisan First Amendment right’s group, released a statement disagreeing with the university’s decision, describing it as “censoring artistic expression.”
“The First Amendment doesn’t exist to protect politically popular speech. It exists to protect the speech likeliest to stir controversy, and it is a crucial check against the power of the state to silence dissenting voices,” the statement read.
Appling was not opposed to the flag being displayed in the museum for artistic expression, but believed the university should be held to the same standards as other public institutions and never should have flown the flag publicly in the first place.
“You would never see a flag like that flying over the state capitol or city hall,” Appling told TheDCNF in a phone call.
Legislative and Policy Director for FIRE Joe Cohn disagreed, saying government buildings hold controversial art all the time and referencing Congress keeping a painting that depicted police as pigs.
He said the greater problem was universities caving to pressures from the public and government to shut down whatever is considered as controversial opinions.
“It seems to be less ideologically driven than it is driven by the desire to make sure nobody is ever upset,” Cohn told TheDCNF.
Although the University of Kansas is a public university, the project was paid through private money. The flag was part of Pledges of Allegiance, a project aimed at starting conversations around the polarizing political climate, according to Creative Time’s website.
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