UPDATE: anti-flag measure vetoed at UC Irvine

Reza Zomorrodian, the ASUCI president, called for a special closed meeting Saturday afternoon.

UCI’s student government’s executive members voted to veto legislation that banned national flags from its “inclusive” main lobby.

Zomorrodian has vocalized his disapproval of the legislation since it passed and said most students share his sentiment.

Led by student body president Reza Zomorrodian, the Executive Board of the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) voted to veto the legislation banning flags from an “inclusive space” during a specially-called meeting Saturday afternoon.

As originally reported by Campus Reform, a group of ASUCI members passed legislation that outlawed all flags, especially the American flag, from the student government’s main lobby as the lobby is an “inclusive space” and flags could represent hate speech. The American flag in particular, the bill stated, can represent exceptionalism, superiority, and oppression.

Speaking with Campus Reform Friday evening, Zomorrodian said that he was pushing for a unanimous veto among his executive members as it’s “very important that [the ASUCI executive cabinet] stand strong and say ‘this is not something we agree with.’”

Since the legislation was passed, Zomorrodian, a senior political science major, has been outspoken about his disapproval of the flag ban.

“I stand firmly against this piece of legislation, though I understand the authors [sic] intent and supporters intent, I disagree with the solution the council has come to,” Zomorrodian said in an official statement.

The executive board, made up of five members, needed at least three votes in order to override the legislation. As it has been vetoed, the bill will head to the legislative council where it will need a two-thirds majority vote in order to override the veto.

While he said he didn’t want to speculate, Zomorrodian did say he was “confident” that the majority of UCI students did not agree with the ban on flags.

“This is not a widely shared opinion,” he said of the legislation. “There’s been a lot of uproar on campus. This is something students care about. This is something students are confused about.”

Sharon Shaoulian, a third-year political science major, told Campus Reform that she, as a daughter of Israeli immigrants, was “ashamed” of her peers who authored and proposed the resolution, as well as those who voted for it.

“I think they represent a perception of this generation as ungrateful and moronic,” Shaoulian said. “This university, as part of the UC-System, accepts and offers more and more aid to students of color and illegal/undocumented students. America has given these students opportunities beyond their dreams, and they spit in the face of our nation.”

"These students don't appreciate a country that has given them the right to sit in their position and vote for a measure that would ban the American flag from this part on campus," Shaoulian continued. "They don't even comprehend that being able to vote for it, is something worth praising our country for."

Despite the media attention UCI has received since Friday morning, Zomorrodian said he was glad for the “healthy debate” that has occurred among students. He said it was “ironic” that such a strong debate over the American flag—and whether or not it’s considered “hate speech”—has sparked on campus as the American flag embodies students’ First Amendment rights to have such discourse.

Zomorrodian told Campus Reform that his role as ASUCI president can be challenging and compared his role to that of President Obama’s struggles with the current Congress and Senate.

“That’s the tough part about having a democracy—sometimes the policy you want doesn’t get passed through,” Zomorrodian, who is currently applying for graduate schools in North Carolina, said.

According to him, the agenda for Saturday’s closed meeting also included budget talks and other typical ASUCI matters.

Authored by Matthew Guevara, the original legislation passed with six yea votes, four nay, and two abstentions.

In a Facebook post Friday evening, UCI seemed to make light of the legislation.

“Have a wonderful weekend! And contrary to what you might be hearing, flags are still flying at UC Irvine,” the post, accompanying a photo of an American flag, read.

UCI, a public research institution, is part of the 10 campuses which make up the UC-System across the Golden State.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn