The Open Letter to the President and Board of Regents

We, the undersigned members of the faculty of Eastern Kentucky University, write to express our profound opposition to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign, which is organizing a rally to take place at Alumni Coliseum next Saturday, October 13th. Our opposition to the campaign does not arise from any differences of opinion with the political content that is likely to be put forth at the rally: as a group, we among the faculty subscribe to a diverse set of political beliefs which mirror those of the student body and the Commonwealth as a whole, and we are fully committed to encouraging the expression of that diversity of beliefs. Yet we must object to this campaign which has consistently, openly, and unambiguously attacked the values of inquiry, learning, and free speech which lie at the heart of higher education and form the core mission of this University.

The assault on those values by the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign is not a matter for debate: it is a fact attested to by the actions and words of its representatives and especially those of its leader. Moreover, almost no component of higher education has been spared from these attacks. Towards the physical and biological sciences, the campaign has consistently and deliberately sought to undermine, not any particular fields or hypotheses, but the very legitimacy of the project of scientific inquiry. By casting doubt on the motives and methodologies of the scientific community, the campaign has denigrated the committed work of countless investigators—including many of our colleagues here at the University—and has made many students and aspiring scientists question the value of pursuing scientific careers. The campaign’s assault on the humanities and social sciences has been, if anything, even more insidious. They have perverted argumentative techniques that look for multiple meanings in human endeavors by asserting instead that there are multiple “alternative truths” that need not be proven but only enforced by the exercise of political and economic power and, when necessary, violence. In this way the campaign has sought to foreclose the possibility of the real interpretation and evaluation of ideas: practices that lie at the center of our mission as a university and which are codified in our Strategic and Quality Enhancement Plans.

As much as we are troubled by this campaign’s direct attacks upon the work of higher education, they are not the most compelling reasons for our opposition to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign. Since its inception in 2015, the campaign has sought to discredit the very foundations of shared discourse and free speech upon which academic inquiry and civil society rest. Their representatives have worked to silence and discredit opponents rather than entering into dialogue with them, while those same representatives have objectified and demonized countless minority and disenfranchised groups who have made easy targets for their exclusionary rhetoric: these groups include, but are not limited to, women, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQA community.

The threatening rhetoric of the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign has been so virulent that in the few days since this rally was announced, many faculty members have reported hearing from students who are concerned for their physical safety. We want to acknowledge that the fears of these students are fully justified and are founded in the attested fact that real acts of violence have occurred at and around other rallies sponsored by this campaign in the past three years. We sincerely hope that all measures humanly possible will be taken to ensure the well-being of every single person on campus in the time leading up to, during, and after this rally.

We note with great frustration that ensuring the safety of rally attendees, protesters, students, staff, and faculty will put a great financial burden on the University, the City of Richmond, Madison County, and the State of Kentucky at a time when budgets for all are very limited. From an economic perspective alone, the rally is certain to have a negative impact on our community. Moreover, both the rally itself and the necessary security presence required by it are sure to present a significant obstacle to the educational work of the University, which will still go on in spite of the event.

We, the undersigned faculty of Eastern Kentucky University, feel both a professional and a moral obligation to object to a campaign which has already done so much to undermine the values of learning, inquiry and responsible citizenship that we all work daily to cultivate in our students; we also regret the disruption to the lives of students and the work of the University that this rally is sure to have. We affirm our belief that the United States of America is already, and has long been, a great nation, and we profess that the best way to maintain that greatness is through the technological development, intellectual discipline, and ethical growth that can only be achieved through a commitment to education and learning.

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