SMU restores 9/11 memorial to prominence, revises policy

Southern Methodist University (SMU) has officially reversed its decision to relegate a 9/11 display to a secluded area of campus.

While SMU did not originally reverse its decision on moving the memorial, it announced this week that the display can be set up on its original location.

[RELATED: 9/11 display relocated due to 'triggering, harmful' messages]

“SMU officials and student leaders reached an agreement today to continue to have lawn displays, including Young Americans for Freedom’s annual 9/11 memorial, on the Dallas Hall Lawn,” the university said in a statement.

“In addition, SMU intends to review and amend Student Activities procedures and University policy regarding lawn displays,” it added, noting that “this review process will be undertaken in consultation with the student government and student community, including student organizations.”

In the initial statement published last week, SMU apologized for the language that was used to characterize the planned 9/11 memorial display and reiterated the importance of honoring the victims of the 2001 attack.

The display of flags was planned by the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter at SMU as part of the 9/11 Never Forget Project, but as Campus Reform previously reported, the university initially denied the group’s request to create a memorial at the usual location on campus in accordance with a policy guaranteeing “the right of all members of the community to avoid messages that are triggering, harmful, or harassing."

[RELATED: Pitt students harass classmate while denouncing hate speech]

“SMU considers this memorial display to be an important campus event that is helpful in remembering the lives lost on 9/11,” the university said on its website. “SMU apologizes for the original inappropriate wording that was used in the new policy on campus displays. That language–regarding messages that are triggering or harmful–was added earlier in July and had not gone through the appropriate approval process.”

In its original statement, SMU stressed that “while the language did not apply to this approved request for a memorial display, the wording has been revised to be consistent with official University policy (Student Activities Policies/Lawn Displays),” adding that “SMU remains absolutely committed to the freedom of expression of all campus community members.”

In place of the previous wording, the policy now simply states that the institution “respects the right of all members of the academic community to be free from coercion and harassment,” though it neglects to define what sorts of displays might run afoul of the new rules, specifying only that signage must “uphold the rights of others, reflect responsible behavior...and uphold the integrity of the university.”

[RELATED: Constitution-wielding student sues college over speech policies]

According to The Washington Post, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had criticized the school’s policy last week, asking SMU to overturn the decision and allow the flags to be displayed in a “traditional place of honor on the lawn of Dallas Hall.”

“I ask that the 9/11 display not be relegated to a far corner of campus,” Abbott wrote. “It should be celebrated in its heart.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @nikvofficial