When last Friday one of my students told my class that Donald Trump was coming to UIC, I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t make any sense, for either the University or Trump himself. After all, the university wasn’t going to let him come and insult the students, right?
Hours later I learned that my student was right, and that, despite the fact that it still didn’t make any sense, he was going to hold a rally at the UIC Pavilion. Couldn’t he find a more suitable place in such a big city? A place where he would be surrounded by supporters? After thinking about it for a bit, I realized that, on his part, it makes all the sense in the world. This guy is running a campaign on free publicity, and what better way to get it in Illinois than talking at a place where he knows his mere presence will cause an uproar?
Most likely he knew there would be protests, and petitions, and controversy. Most likely he actually counted on it. And, sure enough, he was right. Within a couple of days, the TV crews were already at UIC, interviewing students and shadowing local politicians.
What I don’t understand is why the University is allowing this. I get that they cannot discriminate against him (funny, right?), that this is a business decision, that it is a public place and all candidates have a right to rent it. But, couldn’t they have schedule a last minute basketball game or something?
After spending the week receiving e-mails about safety measures, closed parking lots and the reasoning behind this decision, I stand even more behind my first instinct. Allowing this rally to happen at UIC is a terrible idea.
It is a terrible idea because they are basically allowing the bully to sit at the kitchen table of the kids he is bullying. He has insulted African Americans, Muslims, Hispanics. He has threatened to deport immigrants who, although undocumented, have spent years working for this country. Half of the student body belongs to the same minority groups that he is attacking in every single of his public addresses. All that comes out from his mouth when talking about these groups is hate.
The students who belong to these groups are not going to stand quietly while they are being insulted and threatened, bullied. They are within their right to protest. Within hours of the announcement, there were petitions to stop the rally and demonstrations being organized. But I would have hoped for the university to show more concerned for its students’ safety. Big protests can get heated quickly, as quickly as Mr. Trump normally does. We are talking about young people who are very mad. If you mix up with a few radicalized fans of Mr. Trump, one can assume that things are not going to go down nicely.
In the 13 years that I have spent being part of the UIC community, either as a student, alumni or instructor, I have never seen the students, professors and staff as united as they are now, as involved in a political campaign as they are in this one. In a way, it is beautiful to see students come together to defend each others rights in these times when social media can make frivolity and speed seem like the values to hold on to. So, in a way we should be grateful for this wake up call.
But regardless of that I just wish that tomorrow would be a day when we run business as usual, that I wouldn’t have to park in a different parking lot, that I wouldn’t need to ask my husband to get out of the office early because I won’t be able to get home on time to pick up the kids. Above all that, I wish I wouldn’t have to be worried about my students, and their safety. That I wouldn’t have to explain that I don’t understand, any more than they do, why the bully is being allowed to go and insult them in their own home.
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