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UC Berkeley defends its patriotism

By Kurtis Alexander and Matthew Artz and Matthew Artz
Friday September 06, 2002

UC Berkeley again found itself in the hot seat Wednesday when plans to stop the distribution of red, white and blue ribbons on campus Sept.11 were blasted as un-American. 

“The allegation is an insult to everyone at this university,” said Chancellor Robert Berhahl in a statement released Wednesday night. “I deeply resent the implication that... we are unpatriotic.” 

University officials said that plans to issue white ribbons at campus memorial services next week instead of the more traditional red, white and blue, were meant to save money. Printing three colors instead of one is cheaper. 

However, after members of campus College Republicans criticized the white ribbons at a student government meeting Wednesday, the university decided to incur the expense and go with red, white and blue after all. 

“The campus is patriotic,” insisted Janet Gilmore, university spokesperson. “There will be red, white, and blue ribbons. There will be red, white and blue flags.” 

University officials expect thousands of students to take part in activities on Sept. 11, in remembrance of last year’s terrorist attacks. At the center of the ceremonies will be a campuswide moment of silence following the noon chiming of the Campanile bells.Campus republicans, though victorious in the recent color conflict, chided the university for wanting to “skimp” and have white ribbons at next week’s ceremonies. 

“For a school that spends so much money on political issues, like the Middle East... it’s ridiculous that they won’t spend money on some pro-America things as well,” said senior Seth Norman, managing editor of a student-run conservative journal. 

Others suggested that politics, not cost-savings might not have been the reason for the white ribbons. A white ribbon would not exclude students who disagreed with U.S. policy or were not from the country, some said. 

“They’re trying to keep a large majority of the students from participating because they didn’t want to isolate a small majority,” said Dave Galich, vice president of campus College Republicans. 

Student republicans alleged that white ribbons would have watered down the sanctity of the Sept. 11 ceremonies and prevented most students from expressing patriotism as they would want to – with American colors. 

University officials said the republican hype was merely an attempt to stir up right-wing media, admitting that the university had been an easy target in the past. 

“I will not allow the quiet moments from noon to 12:30 p.m., moments of prayer, grief, mourning and reflection... to be misused for political purposes,” Berhahl said. 

University officials said that memorial services held last year, six days after the terrorist attacks, drew 15,000 people and was symbolic of the campus’ patriotism.