UPDATE 10:55 p.m.: Updated to include comment from the university.
Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to President R. Gerald Turner Wednesday calling for the university to return the annual 9/11 flag display to “its appropriate and traditional place of honor” on Dallas Hall lawn.
Controversy erupted earlier this week after a number of campus organizations spoke out against the university’s decision to move displays, including Young Americans for Freedom’s annual 9/11 flag display, across campus to Morrison-McGinnis park.
Last month, the university changed its policy to move all displays to the park, saying a new space was needed to remove scheduling conflicts with other events. In that policy, the university also cited avoiding messages that are “triggering, harmful, or harassing.”
A spokesman for the university said that phrasing has since been removed and has apologized for the wording, claiming the new policy did not go through the proper vetting processes.
However, the university said it had no intentions of reverting to the original policy prior to the governor’s letter.
While the university originally said that it would not be providing a public response to Abbott’s letter, spokesman Kent Best published President Turner’s response Wednesday evening.
The letter in full:
Dear President Turner:
As governor, and on behalf of the people of this great state, I ask that you reconsider the decision to deny the request to display the student-led 9/11 memorial of nearly 3,000 American flags in its appropriate and traditional place of honor on the lawn of Dallas Hall of Southern Methodist University.
This display is not political. It is not partisan. It is not controversial.
This is about our nation united.
Each flag represents a life taken, the soul of a family destroyed. Yet each flag also represents a symbol of hope, for as a people united we remain unbowed.
I ask that the 9/11 display not be relegated to a far corner of campus. It should be celebrated in its heart.
As SMU is shaping the future leaders of our state, our nation and our world, I would hope we are teaching them about the importance of civil and civic participation.
We must never forget.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
The response from President Turner: