ECU acknowledges furor over rally chant
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, July 20, 2019
Feedback about President Donald Trump’s campaign rally at East Carolina University prompted campus leaders on Friday to reiterate that the institution’s role was limited to renting the venue.
The afternoon statement said the university is not responsible for any actions that took place at the rally and that its campus is “welcoming and accepting.”
The president held his “Keep America Great” rally at Minges Coliseum on Wednesday. About 8,000 people attended and another 2,000 were turned away.
ECU’s statement did not directly address national outrage over rally participants chanting “send her back,” in response to the president’s attack on a Somali-born congresswoman.
Many ECU alumni have called on the university to condemn the chant and Trump’s actions during the event.
The statement starts by acknowledging the “great deal of feedback” the university has had about the campaign visit.
“As you know and was stated several times, East Carolina University did not sponsor, host or endorse the event. As a public university, however, we must follow federal, state and UNC System guidelines regarding free speech,” said the letter, signed by interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach and the seven members of his executive team. “The Trump Campaign rented Minges Coliseum, which is available to any for-profit or nonprofit group. With this event and with any event on our campus, the university does not control, and is not responsible for, the content of speech.”
The statement continues that ECU attracts students and faculty both locally, nationally and from across the world.
“For decades, people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences have been proud to call themselves Pirates. A diverse campus allows us to pursue excellence in many ways and fields, to communicate effectively with a broad variety of audiences, and — according to our alumni — to be well prepared for the world after graduation.
“ECU is indeed a welcoming and accepting campus that provides students, faculty and staff the opportunity and space to share their thoughts and views. We strive to create an environment where individuals feel wanted, welcomed, appreciated and valued, understanding that there will be times we disagree.”
The message goes on to say challenge and conflict build resiliency and “sharpens the intellect.”
“We encourage and welcome civil discourse on our campus. The U.S. Constitution allows the intellectual and individual freedom of expression that enables us to live our mission. These freedoms do not protect the right to hear and listen to only what is convenient and agreeable but do protect the right to be able to respond and express one’s own views. We will facilitate such conversations on the campus in the fall.”