News of President Donald Trump’s upcoming rally Saturday in Alumni Coliseum has some EKU faculty taking action.
In a short meeting around 5 p.m. Monday night, four faculty members met in Room 108 of John Grant Crabbe Library to revise and re-draft a letter to the university about faculty’s opposition to the Trump campaign’s message. Heading the meeting and the drafting process was Gerald Nachtwey, graduate program coordinator in the Department of English.
Nachtwey said the letter is about “letting people in the larger community know that there is a sort of resistance to this within the campus community itself, because if we say nothing, they don’t know that, and we can’t assume that they’ll think that.”
Also present were John Fitch, professor of broadcasting and film studies, Zekeriya Eser, assistant professor of finance and Matthew Winslow, professor of psychology and the chair of the EKU Faculty Senate.
Throughout the meeting, the faculty members tried to clarify in the letter that their message was not about partisanship, or telling EKU to deny Trump the right to speak, but fundamental problems they found in the campaign’s message.
“We are about debate. We are about discourse. And that is the very thing that the campaign is trying to undermine,” Nachtwey said.
Ginny Whitehouse, a professor in the Department of Communication and cases and commentary editor at the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, said EKU cannot deny Trump the right to speak, no matter how offensive some may find his speech.
“A public university has on its campus spaces that are considered public forums, and in those public forums, people can rent out space,” Whitehouse said. “President Trump, on behalf of congressman Andy Barr, is here to share his support and to talk about political issues. That is a First Amendment right that the president and everyone has. If someone wants to protest President Trump’s presence, they have the opportunity to do so, as well.”
Fitch echoed Whitehouse on why EKU has to allow Trump to speak.
“As long as the event meets the campus policy on time, place and manner…then the university is legally and ethically compelled to host the event,” Fitch said. “There’s really no way out of it.”
Fitch still isn’t happy about the news, however.
“Personally, I’m really offended by the event and I wish they weren’t coming to EKU, and I plan to protest the event in any way that I can,” Fitch said.
Fitch said that while he doesn’t plan on joining the protest outside Alumni Coliseum on Saturday, he’ll be protesting in his own way by going door to door in Lexington for the Amy McGrath campaign. McGrath is competing for the 6th Congressional District seat against the Republican incumbent Rep. Andy Barr in November.
Two prior drafts of the letter have been shared with Faculty Senate, Nachtwey said. He said the team of faculty plan to send the newest draft to department chairs and deans of colleges to distribute to other faculty and to collect signatures. They also plan to present it to the Board of Regents, President Michael Benson and share it with other public outlets.
“We can’t call ourselves a university if we’re not committed to the various values that their campaign has, on many occasions and through their actions and through their words, shown that they disregard,” Nachtwey said.