A presidential visit to a college campus is often a high honor – a chance to showcase the university in the best light on a national stage.
But East Carolina University finds itself in an awkward spot after President Donald Trump’s rally in Greenville last week, in which his supporters chanted ‘Send her back!’ directed at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia.
In an open letter posted on ECU’s Facebook page, the University reiterates that it did not endorse the event and had no control over the content of the President’s speech.
ECU Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach and seven vice chancellors, who signed onto the letter, go on to write:
East Carolina University attracts students, faculty and staff from all over the region, state, nation and world. For decades, people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences have been proud to call themselves Pirates. A diverse campus allows us to pursue excellence in many ways and fields, to communicate effectively with a broad variety of audiences, and – according to our alumni – to be well prepared for the world after graduation.
ECU is indeed a welcoming and accepting campus that provides students, faculty and staff the opportunity and space to share their thoughts and views. We strive to create an environment where individuals feel wanted, welcomed, appreciated and valued, understanding that there will be times we disagree. That challenge, and sometimes conflict, builds resiliency and sharpens the intellect. That’s the beauty of living, learning and working at a great institution of higher education.
We encourage and welcome civil discourse on our campus. The U.S. Constitution allows the intellectual and individual freedom of expression that enables us to live our mission. These freedoms do not protect the right to hear and listen to only what is convenient and agreeable but do protect the right to be able to respond and express one’s own views. We will facilitate such conversations on the campus in the fall.
Read the full letter from East Carolina University leaders here.
President Trump has since said he ‘felt a little bit badly about it’ and that he began ‘speaking quickly’ to try to quiet the crowd: