March 8, 2015

Statement on ASUCI Actions

Addendum March 10, 2015

The safety of our campus and its students, faculty and staff is and will always be our absolute, utmost concern. There is no gray area when it comes to threats of violence; they will not be tolerated, and we cannot allow our community to be put at risk. Regardless of your opinion on the display of the American flag, we must be united in protecting the people who make this university a premier institution of higher learning. Our campus must be a place for safe and civil discourse. We continue to call on everyone to condemn all harassment and threats of violence.

Dear Friends:

When tens of thousands of young people are brought together and encouraged to explore new ideas, it is inevitable that small numbers of them are, on occasion, going to express views that are unconventional and even outrageous.

A few days ago, on a campus of more than 30,000 students, six of them expressed the view that no flags — not the American flag, and also not the flag of any other nation — should be displayed in a very small interior lobby area of the offices of student government. If these students were acting in a private capacity and expressing personal views then there would be no reason to pay attention. But these six students were acting in an official capacity, as members of a small sub-set of our student government known as Legislative Council, and it was outrageous and indefensible that they would question the appropriateness of displaying the American flag on this great campus.

The administration swiftly, strongly, and publicly denounced the action. Importantly, UCI students also immediately began to express their disappointment and outrage at the actions of these six students. Our elected student body president condemned the action, calling the decision “horrible” and “an attack on American values.” Those news organizations that sought a truthful account of the issue, and that interviewed UCI students, found one student after another saying that the views of these six did not represent the students at UCI.

As a formal expression of the true views of the UCI community, the Executive Cabinet of our student government has now vetoed this resolution, stating that they “fundamentally disagree with the actions taken by the ASUCI Legislative Council” on this issue. I applaud this action and am proud of the members of the Executive Cabinet, as I am proud of the many other students who made sure that their opposition to the original effort was clearly heard on this campus and around the world. Special thanks are owed to a member of our outstanding ROTC program, who volunteered to stand guard over the disputed flag while this issue was being resolved.

We are an institution created by the world’s greatest democracy in order to serve this democracy, and we feel privileged to be able to serve the cause of freedom and progress under the American flag. Our ROTC presents its colors at our most important events. Before too long we will see even more Stars and Stripes at UCI, as we add additional flagpoles near the campus entrance on Bison. Make no mistake: the American flag proudly flies throughout the University of California, Irvine, including outside my office window, and will continue to do so.

Chancellor Howard Gillman