Add college and university presidents to the list of those calling for President-elect Donald Trump to take a more forceful stand against violence and hate.
In recent days, the cast of the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton” issued a plea to Trump for inclusion, and it was met with a defensive response. Now higher education leaders have sent a letter to Trump pleading with him to stand against violence and harassment.
The presidents of two Missouri schools joined more than 100 others who signed a letter to Trump urging him to “condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name, which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office.”
Inside Higher Ed reported on Monday that Mariko Silver, president of Bennington College in Vermont, led the effort to organize the letter.
The online education news platform reported that Silver, in an interview, said the letter came out of discussions she had with fellow presidents, concerned that “our students who have overcome extraordinary adversity” were “feeling anxiety and uncertainty” because of the incidents on campuses.
Jann Weitzel, president of Cottey College in Nevada, Mo., and Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, president of William Jewell College in Liberty, both signed the letter. They were joined by presidents and chancellors of such schools as Morehouse College, Mount Holyoke College, Barnard College, Dillard University, Vassar College, Swarthmore College and Sarah Lawrence College. Most of the signers lead private liberal arts colleges.
The letter says, “In our schools, on job sites and college campuses, on public streets and in coffee shops, members of our communities, our children, our families, our neighbors, our students and our employees are facing very real threats, and are frightened. One of the roles of leaders is to protect and empower the most vulnerable. As president-elect, this responsibility rests heavily on you. Let this be a mark of your leadership.”
Jewell’s President Walls said she was “proud to represent Jewell in signing the letter presented to the President Elect by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. We expect our students not simply to denounce hate speech and violence, but also to think critically about it — to ask questions about why it is occurring and what implications it could have for our world. We expect our leaders to do the same.”
She said the letter is meant to offer the country’s new president an opportunity to “role model for our students—and all of our citizens—thoughtful, courageous leadership grounded in an ethic of inclusivity.”
Trump said in a recent “60 Minutes” interview that he was saddened to hear about the violence and harassment and called for his supporters to “stop it.” Silver told Inside Higher Ed that while Trump’s comments were positive, he still needs to “truly disavow” what has been occurring.
“Hamilton” actors after a Friday night performance called out future Vice President Mike Pence, who was in attendance. The actors requested he uphold American values for “all of us.” Trump in a tweet accused the cast of harassing Pence and said “this should not happen!”