When Storage of America purchased the former Warner Press building on Fifth Street and installed a large American flag on the property, they likely did not anticipate the heated discussion it would prompt on the AU campus next door.
When the flagpole was erected, one of the complaints some students and faculty voiced was its obstruction of Park Place Church of God, which serves as a scenic campus landmark. Others emphasized that the sound of the flag blowing on particularly windy days was overpowering and distracting.
“Some people are going to see the flag as freedom, strength and home,” said senior Mitchell Stacy. “Other people might see nationalism or worldly power. Some might see it as an example of the United States becoming ‘great again.’ Others of us might see it flying in front of the steeple as an example of idolatry.”
According to AU President John Pistole, however, a majority of the AU administration felt that the American flag was not causing any significant issue on campus.
“I do have to represent the views of campus,” said Pistole, who spoke with Storage of America’s executive vice president regarding the flag and the company’s move into the building. “However, in the end, it is their property and their call. They checked with the city to ensure they were meeting regulations. As long as the flag is not a nuisance, it can stay.”
Senior Michael Weigel, who serves as president of the AU College Democrats, expressed that, collectively, the group supports the flag—but also harbors certain reservations regarding its safety.
“We like and support the American flag in the general sense, but are also curious as to what might happen if this specific large flag is flown at half-mast,” said Weigel.
Pistole did note that the flag will need to be illuminated each night because it is too large to practically be taken down at the end of each day.
Each Storage of America location flies the American flag which, at some locations, is even larger than the location on Fifth Street. The building near the AU campus is to be the new headquarters for the company and is aiming to create jobs for the Anderson community.
“They are wanting to be good partners with us,” said Pistole. “They eventually want to have a retail store on the ground floor of that building and want to hire students to work part-time there in the store.”
Amanda Huber, who serves as visit coordinator in the AU Office of Admissions, stated that the flag does not seem to be making a significant impact on prospective students’ initial impressions of campus.
“We’ve gotten mixed answers from our staff,” Huber said. “Some people said it takes away from the view of Park Place, or maybe it’s a little large. But our cruisers, who walk the families and new students around campus, haven’t heard any comments. It hasn’t made a lot of negative impact.”
Huber also pointed out that most of the tour paths do not directly lead students near the flag unless they are specifically interested in the Falls School of Business.
“I have heard that the flag can be really pretty if you’re in the right spot,” Huber said. “We also have new majors including national security, so it may be fitting.”
In response to debate concerning the flag on campus, the AU College Republicans posted a photo featuring it on Twitter and Instagram along with a caption urging students to call Storage of America to express gratitude.
“The AU College Republicans are proud to support the decision of Storage of America to install the large American flag on their new property,” said Josh Senft, president of the AU College Republicans. “We believe the American flag is an important symbol. Bearing 50 stars for each state and 13 stripes for the original colonies, the flag symbolizes the unity of our constitutional republic and is a beautiful reminder of the sacrifice of many for our great country.”
Regardless of campus opinions, it appears that the flag will continue flying proudly for the foreseeable future.
“I think the bottom line, ultimately, is that it’s an added symbol to campus, and it’s going to do what symbols do: get interpreted,” said Stacy. “People are either going to notice it or not. If they do, it’s going to tell them something. Either way, in four or five years, it will probably still be here and just be assumed to have always been a symbol. No one will ever interpret it as heavily as we are right now. In a way, this is history in motion.”
Storage of America did not answer phone calls reaching out for comment.