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Auburn President Bans Giant Flag From Fraternity House

February 19, 1985

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) _ The president of Auburn University, reacting to black students’ protests, on Tuesday ordered the all-white Kappa Alpha fraternity to stop displaying a giant Confederate flag, but gave permission to fly a smaller one.

President James Martin made the decision in a dispute between the fraternity and the Black Student Action Committee involving the fraternity’s annual social festivities honoring the Confederate South.

Martin, himself a former KA member at Auburn, declined to rule out the fraternity’s annual Old South parade, which features Confederate uniforms and a secession ceremony. But Martin said the parade, scheduled April 12, must pass muster with a student-faculty committee.

Martin also called for the creation of a biracial student-faculty committee to address racial issues on campus, beginning with the dispute over the KA’s Confederate celebration. The temporary committee would include four black students, four white students and four faculty members.

″I hope the students involved can get together with the committee and discuss and resolve the issue. I think there’s good will on both sides,″ Martin said.

″It’s a beginning,″ said Phylliss Kerney, chairman of the Black Student Action Committee. ″We had asked for recommendations from the university about resolving this question and we will go from there.″

Jack Fite, KA president, said his group had recommended the creation of a committee to study racial issues and was pleased Martin concurred. ″We want to sit down and solve our problems,″ he said.

The 102-year-old KA chapter for many years has hung a two-story Confederate flag across the front of its fraternity house on special occasions, such as the birthday of Gen. Robert E. Lee last month.

Fite said Lee is the fraternity’s spiritual founder and the group’s Old South parade is a social event commemorating ″the ideals of Southern chivalry and Lee’s ideals of love of country, God and the idealization of Southern women.″

Fite said the flag was not up Tuesday, but he said he thought the regulations could be modified by the biracial student-faculty committee to allow it. A university spokesman said Martin’s ban on the giant flag was not negotiable.

In a statement issued by the university, Martin said student organizations can display flags, provided the flags are no larger than 5 by 7 feet.

Auburn’s student population of 18,888 includes 583 blacks, an increase of 25 percent in overall black enrollment from last year. Black freshman enrollment increased 125 percent from last year.

The Black Student Action Committee, formed last year, usually has 25 to 50 students at its meeting.

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