By Viviana Vidal
On Dec. 7, 2015, Director of Housing and Residence Life Kent Dahlquist sent out an email to all on-campus residents instituting an update on the decoration policy.
The original email stated, “Both the confederate flag and swastika are NOT permitted in any residence hall, suite, apartment or student room beginning in the spring 2016.” Students were asked to remove the items to take home for winter break.
Approximately eight days later, an announcement was sent out to students, faculty and staff from KU’s university relations saying, “Upon learning of the change, university legal counsel asked us to refrain from implementing the policy in order to permit a review for constitutionality. As a result of this review, references to any specific content, such as symbols, will be removed from the policy.”
Word quickly spread across campus about the new restrictions. National and local news picked up the story and began highlighting the unconstitutional element surrounding KU’s interpretation of the updated decoration policy.
Since the university’s decision to withdraw the ban, many students had mixed feelings about how KU handled the matter and whether or not to retract the new policy was the right move. Parliamentarian of Student Government Board and Co-chairperson of the Diversity Council, Nykolai Blichar told The Keystone, “I personally was disappointed the policy was pulled out, mostly due to the fact that the confederate flag has no place in any institution other than looking at it from historical standpoint.”
Senior criminal justice major Tyler Mikell said, “I just think that it an unjust rule, because everyone has a past that they came from. If you were to take away the confederate flag it would be like destroying a piece of American history.”
Although the intentions of Housing were considered a step in the right direction by some, their proposition failed and infringed on a student’s First Amendment right in the process.
The conversation to ban the confederate flag began when students approached Housing withtheir concerns about the display of the flag and of its implications.
Dahlquist was reached out to comment, but directed questions to Matt Santos, director of university relations.
Santos said, “I think that with the sensitivity and the fact that it’s looked at as a symbol of slavery, Housing and Residence Life worked with our administration to include a policy that the flag would be banned. Ultimately, the lawyers decided that for the state to tell students what they can and cannot post in their residence area, is a violation of the First Amendment. It’s not constitutional.”
Since the rescinding of the ban, Santos stated that education is the key. “We have to ensure that we are giving our student body a diverse and understanding experience here at KU.”
President of Black Student Union Maya Wilson hopes the university will take further action when it comes to diversity training for all staff and faculty. She would also like to see more consideration of the minority community when it comes to events and distribution of funds to certain organizations.
Wilson said, “There are many other ways that the university can help assist minority students to feel more comfortable and want to be at this institution. The banning of the confederate flag was an idea that turned into an action. Though it may not have worked, there are many more ideas that need to turn into an action.”