Dear UNC Community Members,
I’ve heard from quite a few people over the past week about the rally held on our campus last Sunday by the Donald Trump campaign. The campaign rented our Bank of Colorado Arena at Butler-Hancock Athletic Center for an event that drew well over 3,000 participants and protesters.
Many people’s responses, whether outraged or enthusiastic, reflect the incredibly polarized nature of this election. For some in our local and campus community, this was an exciting chance to see the Republican nominee up close. For others, it was a troubling event that required them to protest Mr. Trump’s policies, platform, even his presence on our campus.
When UNC rents its facilities to a campaign, we do so in support of the public discourse that fuels our democracy. As a public institution, we have an obligation to make such opportunities available to candidates regardless of their position or platform. American democracy is always messy and particularly so right now. Nonetheless, we cannot back away from engaging.
I am proud of our campus community members who chose to engage in last week’s event, whether as protesters, supporters or observers. At the same time, I am deeply concerned about what this visit meant for our students, faculty and staff who felt threatened or demeaned by Mr. Trump’s policies and remarks or by the words and actions of his supporters. The behavior of some who attended the rally was indeed appalling.
As a university community, we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or intimidation on our campus. Respecting diversity of thought and culture, preserving intellectual freedom, and affording equal opportunity to every member of our university community are fundamental values upon which UNC is built. Disparaging and hateful remarks such as those shouted by some of Mr. Trump’s supporters are inconsistent with these values and are antithetical to the welcoming and inclusive community we work to create at UNC. The First Amendment protects offensive speech but it certainly doesn’t require us to condone it—and we do not.
To our university community members who are understandably shaken by this experience, I regret that you had to hear these hurtful and frightening things. Indeed, I regret that such hurtful and frightening things are still spoken. The UNC Counseling Center (http://www.unco.edu/counseling-center/) is available to provide confidential support, and I encourage you to use these services.
This election has been, without question, the most polarized in my lifetime. It saddens me to see the demonization and denigration of others used as a campaign tactic. But we cannot allow divisive politics to distract us from our ongoing commitment to build a healthy university community. We have not only the opportunity, but also the obligation to rise above the polarization and come together in providing for all of our students the opportunity for truly transformative education in a welcoming and inclusive environment.