Students will need to petition to display the American flag at student meetings at the University of California, Davis.
Senate meetings of the ‘Associated Students, UC Davis’ used to be required to have the American flag on display.
Now, a revision that passed on Thursday, called Senate Bill 76, amends those bylaws. The revision allows senate members “to petition for the display of the flag 24 hours before each meeting,” according to The Sacramento Bee. The “senate pro [tempore]” has the final authority to approve whether Old Glory will fly or not.
According to the bill, “the concept of United States of America and patriotism is different for every individual, it should not be compulsory that the flag is in view at all times during Senate meetings.”
Those who introduced the resolution say that the goal was to follow federal law. “It wasn’t political in any way,” says Jose Antonio Meneses, the bill’s sponsor. He says federal law prohibits requiring an organization to display the flag. “But, because it is the United States flag … it’s a touchy subject to talk about. We want to make sure we are not sued.”
Michael Gofman, a student senator opposed to the change, says, “It was a purely political issue from the start.” Gofman thinks all governing bodies should display the U.S. flag.
Although before Thursday, the bylaw requiring the flag to be displayed was in effect, Menses says during his two years on the student senate, this was never the case.
Gofman says he didn’t know there was a mandatory resolution on the display of the flag. “Once it was brought up, I was shocked and embarrassed about it not being followed,” he said.
Lamenting a lack of patriotism at UC Davis, Gofman believes that as a “first-generation American” whose parents immigrated from the Soviet Union, he has a better appreciation for America. “I have a much closer connection to places outside of America,” he said. “I understand what the alternative looks like. I don’t think members of the senate know what it is like to live in a totalitarian country.”
Stories around the internet and on major news networks like Fox have stated that the UC Davis senate has “banned,” “banished” or “dropped” the flag. Menses says these reports aren’t accurate.
“It’s not a ban on the flag,” he said. “You can’t force people to pledge your allegiance,” he says, referencing a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said students could not be compelled to salute the or pledge allegiance to the flag in West Virginia. “By (the flag) being there, … by extension, you are pledging your allegiance to a symbol that you don’t relate to or that you don’t equate yourself with,” he says.
Gofman says that the senate is receiving emails from alumni who aren’t happy about the new bylaw. Many no longer wish to donate to the school because of it.
Meneses argues, “When I introduced the bill, I didn’t know it would be controversial.” He believes those that are emailing their disapproval don’t have all the facts.
Those supporting the change have gone so far as to threaten the members of the senate that voted against the change. Gofman describes two of the emails as “unacceptable” and “racist.”
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