Lewis & Clark President Barry Glassner and other college presidents signed a letter to President-elect Trump on Nov. 18. The signatories, totalling around 130 and still growing, urge Trump to “condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your [Trump’s] name, which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office.”
Barry Glassner reflected on the decision to sign the letter.
“Leaders in higher education have a responsibility to use our voices to call for fairness, empathy, and a renewed commitment to the common good,” Glassner said. “So the joint statement I worked on with other college presidents puts us, proudly, on record. We called upon the president-elect to reaffirm the values so important to all of us: human decency, equal rights, and freedom from discrimination.”
The letter was released in response to the increased occurrence of hate crimes being perpetrated on college campuses across the nation since Trump’s election. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report on Nov. 11 stating that it had at that point counted 201 “incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation” since the Nov. 8 election. However, the SPLC acknowledged that this one report does not encompass all of the occurrences. The crimes have ranged from verbal threats to physical abuse, as well as vandalism and mainly targeted students of color, immigrants, people of muslim faith and women.
Anna Merkt ’19 expressed concern over the normalization of these incidents.
“Whether or not Trump condones these crimes is irrelevant. They’re happening in his name and that a president’s rhetoric could inspire these sorts of things and make them seem normal frightens and angers me.”
At Texas State University, hateful fliers are currently being investigated. The fliers threaten to tar and feather college officials who support “diversity garbage,” The Austin American-Statesman reported. According to the SPLC report, the phrases “Trump 2016 MAGA” and “you gotta go back now” were painted on a wall at the University of South Florida. At Reed College, two bathrooms were vandalized with anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic and pro-Trump graffiti, according to Willamette Week.
Ocelia Stanley ’20, representative of the LC College Democrats, expressed ways that the on-campus club is looking to take action.
“The day after the election, College Democrats held a meeting to determine our best course of action given the shocking results,” Stanley said. “We decided to focus our efforts on sending aid to organizations whose work may be restricted in the next four years. We’re in the process of reaching out to our local branch of Planned Parenthood as well as local environmental groups to organize volunteering and fundraising events. We want to encourage Lewis and Clark students to get actively involved in the issues they’re passionate about. This election serves as a reminder to us all that having, and even voicing, opinions is not enough. We need to take concrete action to protect the version of the world we want.”
The college presidents’ letter ends by calling on Trump to “protect and empower the most vulnerable” as a mark of his leadership. In an interview on 60 Minutes, Trump addressed a question concerning the reports of harassment. He answered,
“I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it – if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: ‘Stop it.’”
Trump’s transition office has yet to respond to requests for comments on the letter.