Students at Southern Methodist University for the past several years have placed nearly 3,000 miniature American flags on the school’s Dallas Hall lawn to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks — but this year, SMU officials said the display has to move.
“The University respects the right of all members of the SMU community to express their opinions. The University also respects the right of all members of the community to avoid messages that are triggering, harmful or harassing,” according to a policy posted in July, the Dallas Morning News reported. “It is the policy of the University to protect the exercise of these rights.”
Stories about SMU saying the 9/11 memorial had to move to a less central area of the Dallas campus — as well as the reason why — hit the news cycle Tuesday. And that same day, SMU revised the wording of its policy, the paper reported.
“SMU respects the rights of all campus community members to express their opinions, as well as their right to be free from coercion and harassment. The policy has been further updated to better reflect this balance and to remove the poor wording regarding triggering or harmful messages,” the school said in a written statement, the Morning News noted.
Still the 9/11 flags are moving to Morrison-McGinnis Park — a less-prominent spot on campus also known as MoMac Park — like all other displays, the Morning News said.
And that has students upset — particularly those from the school’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, which is behind the 9/11 display.
“I don’t believe it’s the responsibility of the university to shield individuals from certain ideas that they might be offended by,” Grant Wolf, who heads the group, told the Morning News.
Dear SMU: Dumb "PC motivated" decision or just plain demented? This is going to backfire. 😳https://t.co/r91ZhaT2YO
— thebradfordfile (@thebradfordfile) August 2, 2017
And it’s not just conservative students who are up in arms over the issue. Leaders from SMU’s College Democrats and Feminist Equality Movement joined YAF along with College Republicans, Mustangs for Life and Turning Point USA in sending a letter to R. Gerald Turner, SMU’s president, detailing their frustration and disappointment, the paper said.
“People absolutely have to have a right to their own opinions, but this does not come with a right to be shielded from opposing ideas, especially in an environment dedicated to the learning, sharing and developing of new ideas,” the letter said, according to the Morning News.
Heather Hall, president of the school’s Turning Point USA chapter, told the paper that moving the 9/11 memorial amounts to pacifying students.
“Push it off into a little park in the corner, it’s almost the same as not having it,” she told the Morning News, adding that the relocation is “not free speech. That’s not American. That’s definitely not what SMU stands for.”
Kent Best, executive director of communications for the university, told the paper that the 9/11 memorial has to move because Dallas Hall lawn “is used frequently for outdoor class space, studying between classes and a variety of university events.”
SMU told the Morning News that MoMac Park is a larger site “near the center of campus along Bishop Boulevard, the most prominent drive on campus.”