Two confederate flags put on display in the windows of a first floor room in Sloan Hall prompted complaints across Elon University's campus before they were voluntarily taken down Monday afternoon. The flags were hung by freshman Zack Heinle and sophomore Oliver Fischer, an ENN reporter, in an attempt to trigger a response.
"I personally did this as a symbol of conservative pride," Heinle said. "All opinions matter, and you can't shut down mine because of your own."
The flags were met with resistance across campus, including a response by the university who met with Heinle in an effort to have the flags taken down. According to senior Cecilia Ibarra, student coordinator of The Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education, hanging the confederate flag even for a few hours is enough to cause concern.
"More on this campus than on any other one ... the biggest group on campus is white people and so people from minorities will feel less welcome," Ibarra said.
But according to Heinle, the flag should not be misconstrued as an act of hate.
"I think that the symbols of racism are really just sort of schemes that have been developed by society," he said. "The original meaning of the flag was actually freedom from tyranny."
Charles Irons, associate professor of history and chair of the department of history and geography, said hanging the confederate flag is one of the worst ways to express conservative values.
"This is not a judgement call, this is not a tricky one," he said. "The most direct reading of the flag is anti-racism, and if the student thinks otherwise, I would like to give a menu of choices that would more accurately convey a conservative message."
Despite taking the flag down, Heinle argues that any reaction to the flag was overblown.
"At the end of the day it's a piece of cloth," he said. "I don't think people should be offended by it."