An upstate New York college student says his rights have been violated after university officials ordered him to take down a Confederate flag from his dorm room window.
Matthew Papay says two University of Rochester deans misrepresented the reasons he removed the flag, which is seen by many as a racist or unpatriotic symbol, by telling other students in an email that he’d voluntarily done so after discussion with fellow students.
“I am from North Carolina, and the school is blatantly ignoring my rights to express the cultural identity I choose to identify with, even though the school prides itself on how ‘culturally diverse’ it is,” Papay told the (Rochester) Democrat and Chronicle.
The university’s dean of students denied lying in the email, but says he had incomplete information about the incident when he sent the email Friday.
A graduate house advisor told Papay to remove a flag draped in his window, saying it violated fire codes for the dormitory, and the student replaced it with a paper replica flag, which he said the fire marshal had told him was permitted.
But the graduate house advisor asked Papay to remove that, as well, because she said other students had complained about it.
The situation prompted a discussion on a Facebook page for students from the class of 2017 at the private university, generating 32 pages of comments – including some derogatory remarks about black people that were later deleted.
Papay then wrote an essay on the Facebook page, saying he was not a racist and did not discriminate.
The student conceded the Confederate flag was “used by a small percentage of people in certain hate groups,” but he says he “never personally met a southerner who displayed it out of hate.”
Papay says he would not have kept the flag if he believed it had offended others, saying he was only trying to show pride in his Southern heritage.
But some Rochester students told the newspaper they had no doubt the Confederate flag was intended to be inflammatory.
The deans’ lengthy email focused primarily on the offensive Facebook comments, and university officials plan to meet with the students who wrote them, although no disciplinary action is expected.
[Confederate flag overlaid with grunge texture via Shutterstock]