Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will be holding a rally at West Chester University on Monday, April 25 in Hollinger Field House at 4 p.m.
In an email sent by Rebecca Hook, senior associate to interim WCU President Christopher Fiorentino, faculty and students were notified that “West Chester University received a call from the Trump Campaign on Friday, April 22, requesting to hold a rally at the university.”
“As a public institution of higher learning that provides open-access educational facilities, West Chester University does not endorse the views of any political party or candidate,” said the email. “West Chester University is committed to upholding an academic learning environment that engages a variety of thoughts, opinions and expressions.”
Sophomore Matt Carbonaro, who has been a fan of Trump since “The Apprentice,” is excited about the candidate’s visit.
“I feel he will make an outstanding president. He is not bought by special interests and donors,” said Carbonaro. “He speaks for a lot of people who are afraid to speak their mind. He is attracting many new people to the polls who have never voted in their life.”
Freshman Aaron Gallant was also happy to hear about the announcement, although for a different reason.
“I’m glad it’s happening because it’s really nice that we have the ability to declare our dissatisfaction with Trump and his hateful policies,” said Gallant.
Sophomore Miguel Guerra-Solano is looking forward to attending the rally.
“I don’t support anyone, but having the opportunity to witness a presidential campaign in my backyard is a chance I will hardly get,” said Guerra-Solano. “Maybe it’s just the ‘neurologist in me’ speaking, but I always have wanted one nearby so that I could just take a moment to peer into the candidate’s head without the potential of the media skewing the video towards a point of view or cutting it entirely.”
Meanwhile, sophomore Halle Nelson was more worried by the news.
“I don’t want a candidate who advocates for violence at his rallies through racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, etc. to visit our school,” said Nelson. “West Chester University is meant to be a safe space for students, and I fear that his hate-filled rhetoric will result in a ripple effect of intolerance in our school.”
Sophomore Corinne Taicher expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m incredibly frustrated that West Chester University has agreed to let a man speak who preaches hate and distrust in a time when we need understanding and peace,” said Taicher. “It also [is] a great disrespect to Muslim and Hispanic students on this campus who have been clear and consistent targets for his racist rhetoric.”
There are currently numerous events, both public and private, organized on Facebook planning to protest the rally. In addition, a petition entitled “No thank you, Mr. Trump” was created with the goal of gaining 1,000 signatures. As of 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 24, 4,785 people have signed the online petition, which can be found on ipetitions.com.
“…I fear that [Trump’s] hate-filled rhetoric will result in a ripple effect of intolerance in our school.”
Sophomore Stephen Falance, however, finds it “upsetting that everyone’s first reaction is to protest this.”
“I think it’s great that we have a presidential candidate that decide[d] West Chester was the right place for them to come and campaign, regardless of what party they represent,” said Falance. “I understand that the majority of people on this campus are liberal and Sanders supporters, but that doesn’t justify any negativity or potential for uncivil behavior. I think people need to be a little more open-minded.”
Similarly, sophomore Kaitlin Brinker, while not personally a supporter of Trump’s campaign, believes it is essential “for students to be exposed to the open dialogue that democracy provides.”
“While some people may not agree with Trump, he has a right, like any other presidential candidate, to hold a campaign event,” said Brinker. “WCU administrators allowing this to occur does not automatically mean that they or the school support his policies.”
According to Brinker, students should “take this opportunity to participate in the political process in a civil and understanding manner.”
“Democracy allows us to speak our minds, which is a beautiful and powerful privilege to have, and it is important to remember that this privilege comes with much responsibility,” said Brinker. “If you don’t agree with Trump’s policies, then do not vote for him. Becoming violent only adds fuel to the fire of Trump’s most extremist supporters. These extremist supporters are only a small chunk of the big picture.”
Brinker encouraged others to not make assumptions about why people do or do not go to the rally.
“For someone who doesn’t support Trump, I am interest[ed] to see the political process play out, and I hope WCU students conduct themselves in a respectful and understanding manner, even if they are angry,” said Brinker.
Nancy Gainer, executive director of communications, was cited in a CBS Philly article as stating that “they were surprised Trump chose [to visit] West Chester.”
“I think it’s something that’ll draw all types of citizens,” said Gainer. “People from the community, people from various parts of the region. I think it’ll be a draw for a lot of individuals.”
According to the email from Hook, D Lot, which is the parking lot between Hollinger Gym and Lawrence Hall, will be closed on Sunday, April 24 and Monday, April 25.
“In our effort to manage parking for this event, Parking Services is working to help WCU employees and students find other options for parking on Sunday and Monday,” said the email. “We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.”
The email also stated that “university public safety officers will work closely with West Chester Police and U.S. Secret Service to ensure the safety of all students, employees and visitors.”
The Deparment of Public Safety issued an email on Sunday addressing concerns over parking. As stated in the email, Sharpless and New Street parking garages will be free to park on Monday from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Monday’s rally will not be the first time WCU hosted a presidential candidate. In March of 2008, President Barack Obama, a senator at the time, visited as a part of Chris Matthews’ “Hardball College Tour.” Prior to that, former President George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, visited for a rally in October of 2000.
Casey Tobias is a second-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and communication studies with minors in journalism and German. She can be reached at CT822683@wcupa.edu. Her Twitter is @Casey__Tobias.