Ripon president urges profs to attack Trump in all classes
The president of Ripon College is urging professors to disparage Donald Trump in class, saying that if Trump were a student, he would already be subject to a bias investigation.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Zachariah Messitte, who is also a professor in the Politics and Government Department, argues that it’s “fine” for professors to “acknowledge Trump’s narrow-minded rhetoric” in class, suggesting that Trump’s “bigotry” is a valid topic for most any course.
“If Trump were a student, he would have already been called into the dean’s office to explain comments about women, minorities, immigrants, veterans, and people with disabilities,” Messitte writes, pointing out that “my college’s core values celebrate and protect differences of perspective, background, and heritage.”
According to Messitte, relationships on college campuses are supposed to be “friendly, welcoming, and supportive”, but in “Trump’s worldview,” it is “precisely this kind kind of academic environment that has led to the United States’ general decline.”
Following from that observation, he encourages faculty members to spend time explaining Trump’s political rise to their students, saying that in order for students to understand Trump’s supporters, they first must have a deep knowledge of words like “empathy,” “tolerance,” “power,” and “narcissism.”
Messitte claims that some departments will have assigned readings, highlighting the example of a communications class in which the professor “plans to hold a class discussion on Trump’s discourses, focusing on how he speaks to people’s fears and creates an illusion of identification and credibility for voters.”
While Messitte understands the hesitance of many professors and students to discuss Trump in the classroom, he urges both to “resist that urge” and instead “dive right into the big question,” which he asserts is: “How can we be open-minded in the face of Trump's bigotry?”
Despite his apparent hostility toward Trump, Messitte does urge students and faculty to listen respectfully to their classmates and colleagues who support Trump, though according to a Harvard survey, only 25 percent of Millennials say they are likely to vote for Trump, whereas 61 percent would vote for Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head contest.
Faculty support for liberal candidates is even more staggering, with 99.51 percent of political contributions at top liberal arts colleges going to Democrats. Among those who donated to presidential campaigns, contributions averaged $1,043.75 for Hillary Clinton and $323.73 for Bernie Sanders.
“Keeping the classroom open for discussion slows a student retreat to the anonymous online world of Yik Yak, where college-aged Trump supporters troll hate without ever directly engaging their classmates,” Messitte asserts, insisting that while it is a professor's duty to defend the right to hold unpopular positions in keeping with the academy’s role as an incubator for new ideas, they also need to “maintain civility and basic decency” in the process.
“How the nation’s teachers integrate understanding Trumpism into their classrooms this fall, regardless of discipline, will go a long way toward finding some common ground with the 40-something percent of the voting population that supports him,” Messitte concludes.
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