Jan. 6, 2021 will forever be known as the day an insurrectionary, right-wing mob, egged on by President Donald Trump, stormed the United States Capitol, disrupting the official business of Congress in a disgusting display of domestic terrorism. Make no mistake: Donald Trump is to blame. Those witnessing his egregious behavior must speak up — and that includes the administration at his alma mater.
For the past five years, the Penn community has watched with a mixture of horror and disbelief as the 1968 Wharton graduate ascended to the nation’s highest office. In every Daily Pennsylvanian story, reporters wrote that title in front of his name to ensure that the Penn connection remained clear. And throughout Trump’s presidency, students, alumni, and faculty alike constantly called on the University to take ownership of its connection with the commander-in-chief. The University of Pennsylvania must, for once, unequivocally condemn President Trump's harmful and divisive rhetoric, and make clear that the University does not share his values.
For many of these past flash points, it could be reasonably argued that it was not Penn’s place to comment. The University, after all, could not condemn every action by a polarizing administration, especially one headed by arguably its most notable alumnus. But today is different. Today, the world saw rioters temporarily prevent President-elect Joe Biden (a former Penn professor) from being certified as the rightful winner of the presidential election.
Deluded by conspiracy theories and consumed with vitriol, the mob sparked disgraceful scenes all over the hallowed grounds of democracy. A grinning rioter sat in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chair with his boot slapped on her desk. A group of radical fanatics smashed television cameras belonging to The Associated Press. White men proudly holding Confederate flags roamed freely through the halls and the protests.
After a year defined by police brutality against Black Americans, as well as violent responses to those protesting said brutality, it was reprehensible to see a crowd of mostly white extremists attempt a coup with relatively little resistance from police. The juxtaposition was yet another horrific reminder of the unequal set of laws existing in modern-day America.
Hours earlier, Trump addressed a frenzied crowd and repeated his false assertion that he won the election. He urged his supporters to march to the Capitol. Once they had assaulted police, breached the doors of the building, and tore through its halls, Trump remained silent.
Trump’s first statement was a weak assertion for his backers to remain peaceful without instructing them to leave. By the time he recorded a taped statement asking the rioters to leave, it was too late. And even in that message, he continued to fan the flames by insisting the election was stolen and saying “We love you” to the rampaging mob.
Later on, as criticism of that message mounted, Trump only doubled down. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Trump’s continued peddling of conspiracy theories culminated in one of the darkest days in American democracy’s recent memory. The lies enabled a deranged band of followers to exist in an alternate reality, one where Trump had won, where storming the Capitol could save the day, and where anyone in their way was a traitor.
The president’s complete denial of reality, the dangerous rejection of democracy, and the disregard for the country’s well-being contributed to a day of chaos. Penn must forcefully speak out against Trump in order to completely repudiate the president’s actions from any connection to the school.
Penn would not be alone in speaking out against today's incomprehensible acts. Brown's president penned an email to students labeling the riots as "abhorrent" and writing that "they are a reminder that democracy is precious but fragile."
The University of Michigan's president sounded a similar tone in a statement. "The sight of a violent mob taking over the floor of the U.S. Senate brought tears to my eyes," he wrote. "This is not who we are as a nation." Other college presidents, from Nevada, to Colorado, to Florida, have also issued statements condemning the violence.
It would be impractical for Penn to take drastic actions like revoking Trump's degree on short notice. But the least the University can do is distance itself from its most famous graduate and set the record straight: Donald Trump may have earned his degree from Penn, but he represents the antithesis of the University's values and the fact-based pursuit of reason for which this school stands.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.