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Opinion: Donald Trump doesn’t belong on our campus

Our campus isn’t safe with President Donald Trump on it.

With the final presidential debate to be held at Belmont in only three weeks, the administration and the Presidential Debate Committee is inviting hatred, division and unabashed white supremacy onto our campus.

At the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Trump refused to condemn white supremacy. He instead told the Proud Boys, a far-right organization with ties to racial violence, to “stand back and stand by.” 

These hateful and alarming words are in direct opposition of Belmont’s Christian values and everything that the university stands for. They endanger our students, our faculty and our so-called commitment to inclusivity.

University President Dr. Bob Fisher, who has led a call to arms against racism on campus, should denounce Trump’s words.

In a 2017 speech, Fisher challenged students to stand up against bigotry in their communities.

“These are our enemies: hunger, sickness, spiritual emptiness — we’re opposed to those things,” Fisher said. “But even to the point, really, of today — ignorance, disrespect from anyone, hate, bigotry and prejudice. Those are our enemies.”

Since then, Fisher has continually affirmed his dedication to diversity and inclusion. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Fisher responded with statements, listening rooms and a prayer vigil — all emphasizing Belmont’s commitment to racial inclusivity.

We applaud and support Fisher’s efforts to condemn bigotry and to work towards creating a more inclusive campus. 

But what we don’t support is a man who has repeatedly refused to condemn hate groups and racism in this country taking the stage at Belmont on Oct. 22.

There are not ‘very fine people’ on both sides. White supremacists, and those who defend white supremacy, threaten the safety and well-being of our students, our parents and our community.

Belmont holds its community to standards of respect, kindness and love towards all people. So why wouldn’t we hold Trump and his administration to the same standard?

In 2016, the same year Trump was elected, Belmont was actively taking action against racist conduct. 

In a Snapchat, a Belmont student used a racial slur to describe football players kneeling during the anthem, saying they needed “a bullet to their head.” The university took swift and immediate action, expelling the student.

“We reject comments rooted in racism. This is not free speech — this is hate speech,” the university said in response to the student’s actions.

But here we are, anxiously awaiting the same sort of racist speech (albeit veiled by way of dog whistles and subtlety) to be given a microphone on Belmont’s campus.

Supplying Trump with a platform is a slap to the face to Belmont’s recent pledge to pay attention to the needs of Black students.

We know it’s too late to cancel the debate. But the Belmont community still has to stand up against racism the way Fisher promised students we would just months ago. 

We need to take measures to prevent our campus from becoming a platform for prejudice. We need to make it clear: people who encourage and defend white supremacy are not welcome here.

Fisher said it best in an email to the student body regarding racism:

“Belmont is intent on being a part of the solution. We know that words alone are not enough.”

And while there is no immediate solution for eliminating hate speech and violence in this country, Donald Trump has repeatedly proven eager to make himself  part of the problem.

Just because he’s the president doesn’t mean he’s welcome on our campus.

This article written by Kendall Crawford and Sarah Maninger.

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