Sacred Heart University faculty and alumni are concerned and “outraged” that the private Catholic college would allow Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to host a campaign rally on campus.
Brian Stiltner, a professor of philosophy, theology and religious studies, said Trump is “so far outside the mainstream when it comes to civility” that he’s struggling to understand why the university would give him a platform.
He said his concern has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Trump. Stiltner said Trump’s values do not reflect the values of the faculty or the students who attend the university. In fact, most of Trump’s rhetoric “goes against our core Catholic values,” Stiltner said Friday in a phone interview.
Stiltner said he’s been speaking to a handful a other faculty members who feel the same way, but it’s difficult to convey a uniform message to university officials in the middle of the summer.
According to the school’s website, admonitions to “Feed the hungry” and “Clothe the naked” are carved into the limestone walls of the chapel on campus.
Referring to the carvings, Stiltner said these Corporal Works of Mercy are reminders of the values the university embraces. He said Trump, based on his statements over the past year on the campaign trail, doesn’t seem to embrace any of those values.
Kelly Libby, who graduated from Sacred Heart in 1999, said she’s “outraged.” Not that they are letting a Republican speak because they’ve done that in the past, but because Trump goes against everything Sacred Heart stands for.
Libby said service to others was an important part of life at the university and Trump’s rejection of immigrants and Muslims goes against that very basic Catholic value.
Trump also suggested that ISIS will target the Vatican and then Pope Francis will wish Trump was president. The remark was in response to Pope Francis’ criticism of Trump’s desire to build a wall between Mexico and the United States.
A spokeswoman for the university said they believe in sharing their facilities with the outside community and believe in presenting various viewpoints and trusting that Sacred Heart students and members of the community will make wise decisions based on their background, experiences, and education.
Deborah Noack, director of communications, said the Trump rally is “not a university sponsored event, and tickets are not available through the university.”
However, Libby said they’re doing more than renting out the facility. She said they are implicitly endorsing Trump by listing the event on their website along with a link to Trump’s campaign website.
Sacred Heart University President John Petillo blogged about the subject Friday, explaining that tolerance is also part of the foundation of a liberal arts education and part of the Catholic intellectual tradition.
“Mr. Trump would not be the first controversial person — nor will he be the last — to speak at our university, whether by design or circumstance. As a liberal arts institution, these opportunities provide our students and many diverse audiences the opportunity to assess the facts, observe the actions and measure a speaker’s words. Tolerance of and exposure to one another’s opinions and concerns is a foundation of the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition,” Petillo wrote.
Stiltner and Libby, who have both contacted university officials, said there wasn’t enough time to stop the event, which was announced Thursday.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said he’s scratching his head over complaints about the rally because he thought college campuses were supposed to welcome free speech and protect the First Amendment. He said he frankly doesn’t understand why all points of view aren’t tolerated because that’s what the First Amendment is all about.
Trump is expected to hold the rally at the Pitt Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.