Southern Methodist University (SMU) announced late Wednesday it reinstated the 9/11 flag memorial to its prominent place on campus, reversing a decision to relocate lawn displays.
Recently, officials wanted to move the annual 9/11 tribute to avoid “triggering” others.
“The 9/11 display will be on the north portion of the lawn for one day,” said senior Grant Wolf, SMU Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chairman. He told Breitbart Texas SMU reached an agreement with student groups that will allow displays to continue on the lawn at historic Dallas Hall.
In a press release, the university stated one-day displays will remain on the northern section of the Dallas Hall lawn and those lasting up to three days will be situated on the hall’s southern lawn to ensure one area remains open for other uses at all times.
“I thank the students from across campus who came together in the spirit of mutual respect and civil discourse to achieve this outcome,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
SMU officials also indicated they intend to review and amend the lawn display policy and procedures, working alongside student government and campus organizations.
“Throughout these discussions, students have expressed their commitment to freedom of expression – a value the University shares,” added Turner.
Last week, Breitbart Texas reported that student groups rallied to support “free speech” after YAF learned the university instituted a new lawn display policy that barred them and others from using the Dallas Hall lawn, the site of the group’s yearly 9/11 Never Forget Project since 2015.
While the university approved the upcoming 9/11 memorial, administrators told YAF in a July 24 email they relocated the commemorative display consisting of nearly 3,000 American flags to Morrison-McGinnis “MoMac” Park, a larger yet less prestigious area near the dormitories, to avoid “triggering” others from “harmful” or “harassing” messages.
An uproar ensued. YAF and an amalgam of other student groups, representing a variety of political leanings, rallied on behalf of the First Amendment. They penned an open letter to SMU’s president, expressing disappointment with the new display policy which they believed stifled free speech and expression. The students voiced concerns about other college campuses that “have effectively shut down free speech.”
The university apologized for the “inappropriate wording” in the emailed policy and removed references to “triggering or harmful messages,” although SMU upheld the prohibitive memorial display policy.
Even Texas Governor Greg Abbott weighed in on the flap, urging Turner to reinstate the 9/11 flag display to the Dallas Hall lawn, which Breitbart Texas reported. Instead, the SMU president responded by asserting the governor was given “wrong” information about the university’s display policy.
However, in learning that SMU had a change of heart and agreed to return the 9/11 display and others to the “appropriate and traditional place of honor of the lawn of Dallas Hall,” Abbott tweeted: “Proud of SMU faculty & students resolving this issue. A special tribute & great display for the campus.”
Proud of SMU faculty & students resolving this issue. A special tribute & great display for the campus. https://t.co/xVdhChaxli
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 10, 2017
Wolf, who steadfastly maintained the issue at hand was about free speech, told Breitbart Texas, “I am proud that our Young Americans for Freedom chapter took a principled stand for freedom of speech and won a victory on behalf of all students of our university.”
On Facebook, YAF along with SMU College Republicans, SMU Democrats, Mustangs for Life, SMU’s Feminist Equality Movement, and Turning Point USA at SMU expressed their appreciation that the “University has conceded its restrictive policy limiting the freedom of student expression at the heart of our campus.”
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.