Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Furman Student Stands Up for Confederate History

Confederate History Month

Apr 3rd, 2009 by Hiram

Most students at Furman would be unaware that April is designated as Confederate History Month in many Southern States if Junior Will McNutt had not recently brought it to their attention. This month is officially recognized by the states of Alabama, Florida, Virginia, Mississppi, Texas, and Louisiana. On March 12, 2009, the Georgia State Senate passed a bill declaring April as Confederate Heritage and History Month. While South Carolina has yet to pass such a bill, Monday, May 11 is officially Confederate Memorial Day on the State Holiday Calendar.

McNutt began his educational campaign on March 31 when he posted this story on Student News. However, the real discussion about Confederate History Month came when he placed a banner in the DH which recognized the month and had an outline of the Confederate States. The banner also featured two of the Confederate National Flags and the more recognizable Battle Flag. When asked why he decided to raise awareness about this holiday month on campus McNutt stated, “As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I have been aware of this and other historical holidays for quite some time. I feel that the war between the states is an important part of American history. The men who fought and died for South Carolina, and the entire Confederacy for that matter, deserve to be honored.”

Discussion regarding the banner has centered in the DH, and now many First Class conferences are abuzz with discussion. McNutt has personally received mainly positive feedback with words of support coming from students, faculty, and staff. However, Wednesday night the banner was torn down. After fixing it, McNutt replaced the banner with it only to be torn down again by two female students during Friday’s lunch. This incident kept us from including a picture of the banner previously described.

Some students on campus have complained that such a banner in a prominent place may turn off prospective students or promote a negative image of the school. McNutt told The Belltower Voice that he has “great sympathy for the individual who would think less of Furman because they allow an open forum for ideas and opinions” and that he is thankful that Furman is not so obsessed with impressing people on admissions tours that it hides opinions which some might find offensive. Other students believe the symbols on the banner are racist or oppressive and have no place in today’s society, especially among educated students at Furman.

Such controversy over free speech is nothing new at Furman. From the Kinsey Sicks to George W. Bush, this issue seems to come up annually. The Helmsman states, “Students are guaranteed freedom of inquiry and expression,” and the network policy states that, “Furman University encourages a free and open forum for personal expression. This includes viewpoints that are unorthodox or unpopular.”

Even so, Furman also has policies in The Helmsman which some organizations believe clearly and substantially limit the freedom of speech on campus. Such regulations include, “This University should not be expected to provide a platform for persons who would be obscene, who would advocate immorality or who would incite to violence. Such persons are offensive to the purposes of a liberal arts college that aspires to academic excellence under Christian influences.” Further, a Disorderly Conduct section states that a violation could include, “9. Public display or distribution of any material containing language that includes, but is not limited to, profanity, obscenity or any other offensive communication not in keeping with community standards is prohibited.”

Thus far, the administration has not enforced any of the above regulations in regards to the banner and seems to be abiding by their guarantee to freedom of inquiry and expression. Will this freedom continue to be tolerated at Furman or will students continue to limit McNutt’s desire to recognize those veterans who fought during “the war between the states?”