Mitch Elgarico’s parents emigrated from the Philippines, worked hard and achieved the American Dream when they were able to send Mitch to Sacred Heart where he graduated in 1999 with a degree in political science. As soon as word came that Donald Trump would be speaking at his alma mater, Mitch was among those who took to social media to express outrage and urge action.
“There was a moment of astonishment and surprise,” when he learned Trump would be holding a rally Saturday at the Fairfield Catholic school, he said.
Well-known Sacred Heart government and political science professor Gary Rose told The Hanging Shad that it’s important to note that the Trump appearance is not a Sacred Heart event, that the campaign was just looking for a venue and worked out a rental agreement to use the William H. Pitt Center on campus.
Elgarico isn’t buying it. “Respectfully, one can say that it’s not a SHU event, but going forward, anyone who searches ‘Trump’ and ‘Sacred Heart’ will see the two linked with no distinction. This is my school. My parents and I spent a lot of resources that helped build this school.”
Elgarico and other SHU alumni on social media make the strong argument that where a politician or advocate speaks links the two. Trump is big on speaking before business and anti-immigrant groups. Hillary Clinton speaks at more liberal venues. Even if the Trump event is not sponsored by SHU, the school took the campaign’s money to use the Pitt Center. The optics are questionable at best.
Sacred Heart’s mission statement says in part, “The University aims to assist in the development of people knowledgeable of self, rooted in faith, educated in mind, compassionate in heart, responsive to social and civic obligations, and able to respond to an ever-changing world.” This certainly seems counter to what Donald Trump is all about.
SHU alumni on Facebook and other social media platform to urge action by, at the least, contacting the school and expressing their outrage. Words like “offensive,” “alarming” “disgusting” were being bandied about.
One SHU alum put it this way on Facebook: “Dr Rose is quoted well – SHU is open to the exchange of ideas…unfortunately, these aren’t responsible ideas (believe me, dangerous, sad!)…and guilt by association are very unfortunate for our dear SHU.”
Even one buys the argument that the Trump rally is part of the marketplace of ideas, the question is, where do we draw the line? If David Duke wanted to rent the Pitt Center should he be able to? How about Lyndon LeRouche?
Sacred Heart is free to rent its space to whomever it wants. But as a private institution, it is not required to.