Joan Woolfrey 0

Open Letter to President Fiorentino about Trump Rally

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To President Fiorentino:

In your memos Friday and Sunday morning, you have sought to reassure students and employees about the Trump rally. But if you read the students' cries on public Facebook pages and hear their calls for protest, you will see the mismatch between your reassurances and our concerns.

Your reassurances are about political speech among equals: "free exchange of ideas... all of us have the right to disagree... you enjoy the right to free speech just as all political candidates... we support you as you let your voices be heard peacefully. We encourage ... the principles of civility that are a fundamental value of West Chester University."

A principled university administration would accept that the very structure of a hierarchy renders the perspective of those higher on those lower limited. We don't blame you for not knowing instinctively what the students are saying. But we do hold you accountable to take the trouble to ask, to listen, and to lead in that free exchange of ideas. This is what you will hear:

Political speech is legal, and requires university protection for Trump and campus protesters. At the same time, hate speech by the powerful reduces the safety of its targets, and requires a companion stance on the part of the university. The message in your memos is that hateful speech is of no concern to you -- that only political speech is. A university president could take a stand for the humanity of all in our campus community. In the absence of such a stand, we hear a silent, painful, message of support for hate.

The implications of this message are grim and serious for students and employees who are or are perceived to be immigrants, Muslims, people of color. You have seen the videos of Trump rallies. These groups, already targeted by social realities and the legacies of history, are left vulnerable to denigrating and humiliating speech, threats, and physical violence.

You have a choice about your moral leadership. We call on you to declare: "While we are unwavering in our stand for Trump's right to speak, we, the administration of WCU, stand against intolerance and racism, and for the safety, humanity, and thriving of all in our community and beyond. Any expression of hate by the Trump campaign, in the past, on Monday or in the future, that denigrates immigrants, women, Muslims, people of color, or any other human beings, is antithetical to the very messages of tolerance which require us to make a space for them to be heard. This is the American way. This is the West Chester University ethic of civility."

We, the undersigned,

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