In crafting the personas of the presidential candidates, media outlets have emphasized the role higher education has played in the development of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The relationship between the presidential candidates and their respective undergraduate institutions has, in turn, motivated discussions among students at Wellesley and the University of Pennsylvania. In its last edition, the Wellesley News endorsed Clinton and appraised her relationship to the college. Meanwhile, as the newspaper of Donald Trump’s undergraduate institution, The Daily Pennsylvanian Opinion Board has a responsibility to discuss its relationship — or lack thereof — with the candidate and his values.
Donald Trump has, in the past, brought up his education at the Wharton School to qualify his intelligence and capability; however, overall campus sentiment toward Trump remains negative, and he has been protested both at Penn’s campus and in the wider Penn community.
While the Wellesley News proudly declares Hillary as an alumna, the Wellesley News would like to articulate that its support for her is not based entirely on this identification, but on her experience, tenacity and sound policies. Overall, and despite political variance, most students at Wellesley support Clinton in this election.
Donald Trump flaunts his Wharton degree. In a July 11 speech in Phoenix, Ariz., he boasted that “I went to the Wharton School of Finance ... I’m, like, a really smart person.” However, over 3800 Penn students, graduates, parents, partners and family members have signed a petition stating, “You [Trump] do not represent us.” This petition expresses an “[outrage] that an affiliation with our school is being used to legitimize prejudice and intolerance” and that they “do express our unequivocal stance against the xenophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry that you have actively and implicitly endorsed in your campaign.”
The petition has been followed by other examples of protest. For example, on Oct. 11, a group of students belonging to the group We Are Watching staged a feminist art protest entitled “YOUR BODY, YOUR BALLOT” to promote voter registration and actively disassociate from Trump on the basis of his sexist and discriminatory rhetoric. “Penn as a community often prides itself on being diverse in a variety of different ways,” said College junior Amanda Silberling, one of the leaders of recent campus protests against Trump and rape culture. “Trump’s behavior, actions and words don’t honor the fact that there are infinitely many different types of people at Penn.”
This well-received protest speaks to the Penn community’s general consensus that Trump fails to represent the current Penn student body and its values. Penn students reflect a diverse, eclectic mix of interests and beliefs, but above all they seek to respect and understand these differences. Detaching ourselves from the candidate who shares our alma mater is both necessary and natural.
At Wellesley, the student support for Clinton is neither unconditional, nor nested in her affiliation with Wellesley. Rather, while Donald Trump bases his campaign on racist, sexist and xenophobic rhetoric, Clinton has proposed feasible policies that the Wellesley campus supports, including protections for immigrants, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and women.
Throughout her career and her many years of public service, Clinton has exemplified the Wellesley motto, “Non Ministrari sed Ministrare,” or “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” She worked at the Children’s Defense Fund and has been a strong advocate for women’s rights throughout the world. Clinton served children and families through pro bono legal work, published several legal reviews and has pushed for health care reform throughout the decades. She served as a first lady, two-term senator in New York, and secretary of state. When looking at her professional and personal history, it is clear that Clinton not only upholds the values of Wellesley College, but redefines them.
Though Clinton embodies her alma mater’s institutional values, Trump does not. It is clear that Trump has failed to dignify the morals of his institution. Penn’s motto, “Leges sine moribus vanae,” translates as “Laws without morals [are] useless.” In evaluating Donald Trump through this context, the Opinion Board cannot say that his actions attest to his morals: He does not embody the spirit of the school.
Students at any institution look up to prominent alumni as models for their futures. We at The Daily Pennsylvanian are concerned about the precedent that Donald Trump sets for our fellow peers and how he chooses to leverage his affiliation to Penn to the rest of the world. His divisive policies are not only orthogonal to those of Penn, but to democracy. Comparatively, Hillary Clinton, time and time again, has embodied pragmatic leadership and service and, more importantly, the desire and capacity to both listen and respond to the needs of a diverse society.
Certainly, we cannot expect all alumni to personify the values of their undergraduate institutions. However, when politicians leverage their academic affiliations as credentials, they come to represent the students of those institutions. Each student, alumni and faculty member is then responsible to critique that representation. While the Wellesley News has endorsed its alumna, Hillary Clinton, The Daily Pennsylvanian Opinion Board cannot stand behind Donald Trump as a candidate.
Editor's Note: The headline of this article has been updated to clarify that it is the newspapers of Trump and Clinton's alma maters that endorse Clinton, not the universities themselves.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.