Nearly 3,000 miniature American flags created controversy outside the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Friday because of event-planning logistics.
The flags, which were planted in the ground to commemorate lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, were part of the USF College Republicans’ effort to show patriotism on campus, said College Republicans Vice Chair Jacqueline Sell.
However, there were concerns as to whether or not the flags were allowed in the ground near the MSC Plaza and Martin Luther King Plaza.
“The issue is that we weren’t aware that they were going to do that,” said Greg Jackson, associate director of the MSC.
Jackson said he met with the chairman of College Republicans, Charles Sherrard, about a different event in the residence halls but was not informed about the event outside the MSC, which, aside from the flag display, included a tent where ribbon pins were handed out.
Courtney McGarry, treasurer for the College Republicans, said the organization had permission for the event.
“It shouldn’t have been something that they made a big deal about,” McGarry said.
However, Jackson said they asked for permission from AlliedBarton, which provides campus security officers, not from Physical Plant or Event and Meeting Services, which handles events in and around the MSC.
University Police (UP) Sgt. Todd Gregory and two other UP officers checked the display area around 4 p.m. after hearing rumors and receiving calls that someone was making trouble.
Despite the disagreement, members of College Republicans said they were glad so many people stopped to see the display and said many people stopped to take pictures.
Instead of being asked to remove the flags, the organization was allowed to keep them up.
“Luckily there are no events out there, so they can keep it up until (today) … We’re doing them a favor,” Jackson said. “We could have asked them to take it down.”
USF President Judy Genshaft said in a statement released Friday that the flags would remain on campus until Tuesday.
“Considering that eight years have now passed since the attacks, and many students were too young at the time to now remember the horror and sadness we all felt, I see this display as a wonderful tribute by engaged young citizens,” Genshaft said.
Sell said the USF organization received help from University of Tampa College Republicans, as well as Trey Stroud, a Republican candidate running for state representative, District 60.
Johann Boteju, a biology graduate from New York, said it looked like it took a lot of effort to plant the flags.
“I think that it’s sincere, genuine … and touching,” Boteju said. “Every flag represents a single person.”