More than 100 college presidents, including three from North Carolina, have written to President-elect Donald Trump, calling on him to condemn “harassment, hate and acts of violence” that have occurred in the past 10 days.
Among the signers of the letter were Davidson College President Carol Quillen, Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson and Guilford College President Jane Fernandes. The letter was posted by the online news site Inside Higher Ed.
Across the nation, university presidents have issued statements to calm emotions that have run high since the election. They have talked about the values of free speech and civil discourse, while also issuing a call for tolerance and safety.
In one high-profile incident, black first-year students at the University of Pennsylvania received text messages that depicted lynching and racial slurs through a messaging app. The texts were later traced to a former student at the University of Oklahoma, multiple media outlets reported.
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Beyond reports of threats and harassment, college campuses have been the scene of demonstrations since the election. At UNC-Chapel Hill last week, students participated in a class walkout to protest Trump’s election. On Thursday, UNC Board of Trustees Chair Dwight Stone urged students to listen to each other and avoid the current path of “animosity and division.”
Stone said it’s not the proper role of the university to shield individuals from ideas that they find unwelcome or offensive. “Let’s allow ourselves to be great and not be fearful of great discourse,” he said. “Real and true diversity is freedom of thoughts and ideas and the sharing of them.”
The 110 college presidents who signed the letter to Trump asked him to denounce acts perpetrated “sometimes in your name, which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office.”
“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,” the letter said.
The presidents went on to say that leaders must take responsibility to protect the vulnerable. “As president-elect, this responsibility rests heavily on you,” the letter said. “Let this be a mark of your leadership.”