Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Forbes: Occidental College Tries To Heal Campus Wounds After Attack On 9/11 Flag Memorial

Mod: An interesting article from Forbes Magazine about some fairly recent tumult at Eagle Rock's very own micro-Harvard, Occidental College. Home of bothersome regional political meddler and man of immense mouth Professor Peter Dreier

Occidental College Tries To Heal Campus Wounds After Attack On 9/11 Flag Memorial (Forbes - Dec. 31, 2016): What does a college do when students trash a 9/11 memorial? That was the question facing Occidental College in Los Angeles after vandals destroyed a display of nearly 3,000 American flags placed by Conservative and Republican club members on the Quad.

Privacy regulations demand that the college can’t publicize any sanctions against the guilty parties. And campus-wide calls for unity and understanding smack of blaming the victims for not getting the message that the American flag can trigger feelings of hate and revulsion in some students.

This spring semester, the small liberal arts college will host speakers and a series of documentaries to try to bind up the wounds. Will it be enough for some and too much for others on campus? This is the place where President Barack Obama spent his first two years of college and NFL quarterback and Republican icon Jack Kemp, class of 1957, had a football stadium named in his honor in 2011.

The news of the destruction of the flag field made national headlines. (The flags had been approved by the administration and publicized ahead of time via campus email.) On September 10, students helped push 2,997 flags – representing those who died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania 15 years earlier – into the ground around the Quad. In the overnight hours, someone pulled them all out and tossed them in the garbage. Then to prove it wasn’t a spontaneous move, the perpetrators put up their own signs and copies of “Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100,” a poem in honor of the cooks and dishwashers at Windows on the World restaurant who died in the World Trade Center attack.

Many students joined with the Conservatives and Republicans on campus to replace the flags. Some spent the  night protecting the display but they said vandals came back and broke about 40 flags, snapping the sticks in two. Later in the day, hundreds of flags were once again stomped on and trashed, and once again they were replanted.

The “9/11: Never Forget Project” is organized nationally at hundreds of high schools and colleges by the Young Americans for Freedom. The protesters had a problem with American flags representing all of the victims. “Typically we memorialize people with flowers…with less politicized, less contentious symbols,” said one of the unidentified flag vandals to The Occidental Weekly student newspaper.

“This incident has been defended by some as an act of protected speech,” said Jonathan Veitch, president of Occidental, two days after the event. “It is not. It is an act of defilement that is deeply offensive to the memory of those who died on September 11th. And it violates the free speech of others, a principle we must hold dear as members of an educational community.”

No one came forward to claim credit for the outrage, but a group known as CODE: Coalition @ Oxy for Diversity and Equity offered an “anonymous platform” on Facebook to outline the perpetrators’ goals. They wanted to “demonstrate a more holistic approach,” according to CODE. “The critique voiced was that the flags represented an exclusionary, nationalistic narrative” that didn’t acknowledge the “the 1,455,590 innocent Iraqis who died as a result of the U.S’s subsequent invasion and War on Terror.” (That number is widely debated.)

The college said it would take action against those who destroyed the memorial. It reminded everyone, however, that student conduct matters are covered by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and state laws so sanctions would not be made public.

“The primary objective of the College’s disciplinary process is to educate students about the effects and consequences of their actions so that they understand the rights and responsibilities of being a member of the Occidental College community,” said Erica O'Neal Howard, the acting dean of students, in a statement on the school's website.

She added that the administration believes they need to make the vandalism “an important teachable moment to address complex issues.”

Mod: You can read the rest of this article here. Peter Dreier, in a rather blustery (and unfortunately very long) letter about this incident to The Occidental Weekly (link), attempted to make some political hay out of this strange act. Stripped of its bulk-load of academic bromides, in a nutshell here is what he had to say.

"The vandalism of the flag on the Occidental campus last week may have been a sincere expression of outrage about injustice, but it did not satisfy the criteria for effective protest.  The incident triggered lots of conversation about the tactic rather than galvanizing a campus-wide discussion about the people who lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy, the misuse of that tragedy as an excuse for the U.S. to invade Iraq and the lives lost in that war, and the broader issues of America’s role in the world, U.S. militarism, fear-mongering by politicians about Muslims and one of the world’s great religions, and how to deal with the threat of terrorism."

Mod: I don't suppose Dreier would ever consider that this "act of defilement" (to use Jonathan Veitch's terminology) could actually be considered an infantile tantrum thrown in a protected setting by some extraordinarily privileged individuals? Persons who later had their utterly inexcusable act dignified by Professor Dreier as a "sincere expression of outrage about injustice?" Just in case you might have wondered how such a thing could have happened there.



  1. With tuition it costs parents around $64,000 a year to send their sprout to Occidental. They should sue to get their money back.

  2. The extraordinary privileged individuals should destroyed the American Flags should in my opion, experience Iraqi Justice. Saddam Hussein was famous for his use of an Iron Madden outfitted with metal spikes for the law breakers and just plain entertainment.

  3. The parent that invests $64,000 ao send their "sprout" to Oxy expects more than teaching in a classroom for their investment.This is not a proper protest but an excellent learning opportunity.

    1. Vandalism is a "learning opportunity?" Cool. Hopefully they will express their outrage at bourgeois culture by visiting your house.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. The good ol' Tattler is back!! I'm used to the name calling and personal attacks. :/

    4. I personally found the use of the word "sprout" to be particularly offensive.

    5. Yes spawn or whelp is preferred.

  4. In our new fascist regime under Trump this would not happen.

    1. I do not think it takes a Donald Trump to properly portray the actions of these knuckleheads. That they don't even have the courage to give out their names shows that there is societal pressure enough to deal with such acts of desecration.

    2. Just couldn't resist could you. So it's Donald Trumps fault. Amazing this man has this much power over you even before he takes office. V

    3. You must have a reading comprehension problem, 7:39.

  5. Average Sierra MadreanJanuary 3, 2017 at 7:25 AM

    Darn kids these days. Get off my lawn.

    1. More aptly "Get off my dirt" that was once a green lawn.

    2. The Ghost of Bruce InmanJanuary 3, 2017 at 8:04 AM

      7:53, nice riposte. Did you see the LA Times this morning? We'll just create desal plants all up and down the coast, darn the cost and darn any conservation.

  6. The Young Americans for Freedom is a creepy indoctrination group founded by right wing extremists. Those guys are always abusing the flag like a diaper - spewing their disguised nonsense on it then forcing everyone else to inhale.

    The resistance is reasonable.

    1. Oh c'mon. If you had placed 3,000 American flags about campus to celebrate the birthdate of Bernie Sanders and the YAF stomped all over them you'd be howling about fascists and jail terms. The mob is not the guardian of free speech. It is its enemy.

    2. I agree I would never desire an American flag to represent me in my death. Maybe a flower,tree,art or something but not a political symbol.

    3. Calling the American flag a "political symbol" is a political statement.

    4. Whatever just please don't stick one through my heart when I'm dead and buried.

    5. But I would never abuse the flag like that, which is the point

  7. In regards to the illustration used above. Is that a micro or macro aggression?

  8. Thanks mod for the reference, I hope the fellow readers followed up. I did, and I have supplied the poem you have so woefully forgotten to add. We have both a President of our Nation and a Poet Laureate. We quickly run to nationalism and anger, seldom to literature and understanding.

    (Premable Here)

    For the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

    (Poem Here)

    Alabanza. Praise the cook with the shaven head
    and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
    a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
    the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
    Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
    glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
    Alabanza. Praise the cook’s yellow Pirates cap
    worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
    that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
    for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
    Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
    even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
    rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

    Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
    like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
    Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
    could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
    Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
    Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
    Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning,
    where the gas burned blue on every stove
    and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
    hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
    or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
    Alabanza. Praise the busboy’s music, the chime-chime
    of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
    Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
    who worked that morning because another dishwasher
    could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
    to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
    floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
    Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
    and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.

    After the thunder wilder than thunder,
    after the booming ice storm of glass from the great windows,
    after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
    after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
    for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in
    like a cook’s soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
    about the bristles of God’s beard because God has no face,
    soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
    across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
    Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.

    Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan to Kabul
    two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
    mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
    Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
    And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
    I will teach you. Music is all we have.

    1. So you are aware, kitchen help at Occidental College is paid below subsistence wages.

    2. You can call me AlJanuary 3, 2017 at 8:42 AM

      8:31 No I am not, and that is an issue worth talking about as well. As for the topic of this discourse I think the above poem adds insight to the debate over the supposed outrage. Are we to be outraged over the deaths of all Americans on this day, or just over the supposed trampling on an American symbol, whatever that means. I will let the poem speak for itself. I believe another, perhaps more appreciated in these corners, poet spoke to the same themes. This may fit your perspective better...

      "I am just a poor boy
      Though my story's seldom told
      I have squandered my resistance
      For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises
      All lies and jests
      Still a man hears what he wants to hear
      And disregards the rest

      When I left my home and my family
      I was no more than a boy
      In the company of strangers
      In the quiet of the railway station
      Running scared,
      Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
      Where the ragged people go
      Looking for the places
      Only they would know"

      Et cetera.

  9. Having lived under Facism, I will defend the American Flag with my life. Thank you America.

    1. a Fascist government hasn't ruled on this planet for 70 years,so soon you will die and we will stick a flag on your dead body

    2. Not sure you'll be able to say that 19 days from now, 10:43.

    3. I will defend the flag from being exploited by fake patriots and extremist fear mongers

  10. Gotta love it when the overly privileged stand up for the under privileged. The first group hasn't really thought it through.

    1. That was so awesome- say it again

  11. Gotta love it when the overly privileged stand up for the under privileged. The first group hasn't really thought it through.

  12. So instead of placing flags from various homelands of the workers, these entitled children destroyed American Flags because America is the country that "took" in individuals facing atrocities from "their" own countries?

    1. If the flags of all these countries were represented the quad would have looked like a Holiday Inn.

  13. Why don't these highly educated poetry writing individuals move back to their places of origin and begin the real protests of changing the politics of their birth countries?

    1. Yeah! Paul Simon go back where you came from!

  14. New Jersey?
    If the children of Occidental College had only listened to "The Sound of Silence"...

  15. New Sheriff in town. President Elect Trump, tweets business NOT as usual. The GOP reversed their vote on Ethics Committee.
    Gentle reminder that the elected are here to serve the people.

    1. Insane the GOP would even consider such a swampy maneuver, let alone pass it. All feels so contrived

  16. If planting flags constitutes the exercise of speech, why isn't removing those flags the exercise of speech?

  17. "It's a complex issue" "matters are covered by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" :/