School officials at the University of New Mexico don’t want students hanging Nazi flags or Confederate flags, so to make things easier and simpler, they’ve banned all flags. Students can hang whatever they want on the interior of their dorms, but windows constitute a public space according to the university’s policy, so the only thing that can hang there are the curtains. Campus Reform reported:
“UNM didn’t want to start drawing a line between what you can hang in public spaces [and what you can’t], because you can see the flag from my window,” Schofield claims he was told by an RA. “He told me that if someone were to hang, say, the Confederate flag or a Third Reich flag, they didn’t want to have that showing, and so to make it easier on them, they said no flags.”
UNM student Ryan Taylor told KOAT that while he understands the school’s concerns, he doesn’t think a sweeping ban is the appropriate solution.
“There are probably some things that cross the line somewhere, but in general yeah what’s wrong with it,” he remarked. “It’s definitely a First Amendment violation for them to have to take down any kind of flag.”
The school’s Residence Hall Handbook stipulates that “room decorations are to be in the interior of your room and may not extend into public spaces, including the hallway side of your room door,” but does not provide any rationale for the policy. UNM’s Housing Guide further specifies that “banners or signs hung from your exterior windows are prohibited.”
“A window is considered ‘public space’,” UNM Director of Media Relations Dianne Anderson told Campus Reform matter-of-factly.
Policies like this purport to be about preventing offensive displays. But who gets to define “offensive?” Whoever makes the rules.
If the LGBT Student Union wanted to host an event on school grounds where people prance around in body-painted clothes, wave around their rainbow flag, and simulate lewd acts as part of their 1st Amendment rights to free speech and expression, it would be a hate crime for school officials to try to prevent such a thing from occurring. Would an event like that be offensive to a lot of people? Duh. But the school would conveniently consider it “free speech.” They’d not only allow it, they’d celebrate it.
So, obviously, they’re not concerned with things that offend people. We’re forced to be around stuff that offends us all the time. It’s just that certain offensive things are not allowed, while other highly offensive things are allowed. All people are equal; but some are more equal than others.