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In the three weeks since the election of President-elect Donald Trump over Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, many colleges and universities are speaking out to urge the president-elect to promote unity and peace in light of the rhetoric Trump promoted during his campaign
Leading the charge is Bennington College, which has collected more than 110 signatures from college and university presidents on a letter calling for President-elect Trump to condemn acts of hate seen around college campuses and the nation. Many students on campus have expressed concern about the comments he has made on the campaign trail, which include increased immigration laws, promises to limit women’s health access and anti-Islam rhetoric.
Mariko Silver, the president of Bennington College, led the effort in creating the letter. In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, she said the letter came from discussions from students who felt “anxiety and uncertainty” because of the incidents on Bennington’s campus.
The letter quotes Trump’s promise at his election night rally to “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict” and urges him to take advantage of his leadership and empower the vulnerable. It also outlines the values of the United States as “human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination,” encouraging Trump to reinforce these principles during his tenure.
Since the election, two incidents classified as a type of hate crimes have occurred at the University of Michigan. In one of the incidents on Nov. 11, a man demanded that a female student remove her hijab or he would set her on fire. On Nov. 12, a female student was yelled at by two men for being American, referenced her religion and pushed down a hill. Additionally, a student came home to a swastika drawn in his apartment that week.
University President Mark Schlissel has sent out University-wide emails condemning incidents such as these and has outlined resources for students who have experienced attacks or harassment, but has not signed the letter started by Bennington.
One of Schlissel’s biggest initiatives during his presidency so far has been his Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, which aims to create a more diverse and welcoming campus for students of all identities. However, Schlissel has been criticized for not doing enough in terms of increasing diversity, and students have expressed their frustration throughout the semester at protests and community forums.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Monday in an email interview that he had no information regarding the letter and whether Schlissel would be joining the list of signatures.