More than 460 Penn faculty members signed an open letter on Thursday calling on President-elect and 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump to condemn the racist GroupMe chat sent to a group of black Penn freshman students last week.
The group, which at one point called itself 'TRUMP IS LOVE' threatened the students with an event titled 'Daily lynching'. It also included messages such as 'ALL HAIL TRUMPMIESTER [sic.]' and 'This group is dedicated to the life of supreme daddy TRUMP' according to screenshots obtained by the Daily Pennsylvanian. One of the group members used the name 'Daddy Trump'.
The faculty addressed President-elect Trump, saying that the group invoked "our national legacy of white supremacy" and "followed a disturbing pattern that we, as a country, saw play itself out in the long weeks of the presidential campaign and in the harmful alliances that you built in your path to the election."
The letter continued, "We remember from that recent past, as the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented, that you named far-right extremists as advisers to your campaign; that in your campaign rallies and from your Twitter feed, you repeatedly circulated and amplified racism, sexism, anti-semitism; that you gave press credentials to a white supremacist radio host; and that you refused to denounce the neo-Nazi David Duke’s endorsement of your campaign for many months. Additionally, you encouraged violence and hate repeatedly in campaign stops all across the country and assumed a permissive attitude toward identity-based intimidation and aggression."
It went on to cite other instances of racialized violence that have occurred since the election, including a black student at nearby Villanova University who was reportedly attacked by a group of three white men shouting "Trump!"
"The letter asks the president elect to do the simple and decent thing of condemning racial hatred on the campus of his alma mater," Al Filreis told The DP. Filreis, who signed the letter, is an English Professor and Director of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. "It seemed like a reasonable, ethical and civilized response to ask for."
Not all professors felt that the letter was a helpful response. Carrie Kovarik, an Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania explained in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post why she disagreed with the letter. While she condemned the messages as "heinous acts" that added to "the feeling of political exclusion" she also criticized the "disgust" with which her colleagues in academia treat her and other Trump supporters.
"This somewhat protected academic mind-set is often reflected on our students and trainees," Kovarik said in the op-ed. "We are here to teach them all viewpoints — not to teach them only ours."
Kovarik felt tone of the letter contributed to this divide and should have "[allowed] for healing rather than continued anger."
"It wasn’t the message of asking for Trump to come out against the actions that have happened on campus. Certainly I have been horrified by these actions as well," Kovarik told The DP. "I think it would be a good thing to condemn hateful acts and if my university wants to call on him to do that I would be supportive but it would need to be done with the right message and tone of unity and inclusiveness and this was not it."