Nearing 900 names, a petition calling on the University of San Diego to cut ties to Donald Trump backers continues to roil alumni waters — even spawning a counter petition.
Joseph McKellar on July 12 called for USD to remove the names of Trump backers Doug Manchester and Jenny Craig from school buildings, including the “Slim Gym” from the diet company founder.
But Curtis Jennings has gained 26 names on a petition titled “USD Community says ‘Thank You!’ to Trump Donors Jenny Craig & Doug Manchester.”
“I simply want to show that for every USD Community member that votes in the petition against USD donors supporting Donald Trump, there is another member who is in favor of said support,” Jennings wrote about a week ago. “Claiming to represent the entire USD Community with a mere 500 signature petition is a heinous distortion of the truth, as this petition seeks to elucidate.”
Four days before McKellar’s effort, a similar petition from students, staff and alumni of Trump’s alma mater — the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — went online. It’s now close to 4,000 signatures.
“We, the undersigned Wharton students, alumni, and faculty, unequivocally reject the use of your education at Wharton as a platform for promoting prejudice and intolerance,” said the open letter. “Your discriminatory statements are incompatible with the values that we are taught and we teach at Wharton, and we express our unwavering commitment to an open and inclusive American society.”
McKellar, a Los Angeles resident who graduated from USD in 2004, posted his petition to change.org.
“This is not a request for USD to take a partisan stand,” he said, “but rather a moral stand during an extraordinary moment in our country’s history, when the ghosts of our nation’s dark legacy of slavery, segregation and internment are being reawakened to further divide us and make us fear our sisters and brothers.”
Last week, university spokeswoman Pamela Gray Payton shared what she called a revised statement on the issue.
“Our democracy by its nature invites a variety of differing viewpoints, and of course, the University of San Diego respects the constitutional right of freedom of expression,” said the statement. “This clearly includes an individual’s right to support the political candidates of his or her choice. USD neither denounces nor disassociates with anyone on the basis of the political candidates they support.”
The school’s “statement on freedom of expression” continued:
“Doug Manchester and Jenny Craig have certainly contributed very significantly, not only to the growth and success of the USD community, but also to many other philanthropic causes in San Diego over the years. We are truly grateful for their leadership and generosity, and that of many others, who support the progress of USD and its students.”
Manchester and Craig’s organizations did not respond to a request for comment.
But USD’s student news media quoted a student supporter of the donors — junior Jared Sclar.
Hillary Clinton backer Sclar, planning to be in Philadelphia as an intern at the Democratic National Convention, was quoted as saying: “The donors of the school have a constitutional right to support who they want to support monetarily, and especially under Citizens United they have the unlimited power to do that.”
Sclar opposed removing the Manchester and Craig names from campus buildings.
“The protesters also have a constitutional right to protest [Craig and Manchester’s support of Donald Trump], but it’s going to come down to the decision of the USD administration whether they want to take that into consideration and actually malign two of the greatest donors to the USD community,” Sclar said.
“So while I disagree with the endorsement of Jenny Craig and Douglas Manchester for Donald Trump, I’m firmly opposed to renaming the buildings simply because these people are providing money for me and you and everyone else who goes to USD to pursue our academic goals.”
McKellar launched his petition on the eve of Rancho Santa Fe fundraiser where Trump appeared — and was expected to raise $4 million.
The San Diego Union-Tribune said Manchester, one of the lead organizers and a Trump delegate, was charging at least $25,000 a ticket to see Trump, who he said would “be the first true capitalist ever elected to the presidency of the United States.”
The fundraiser, expecting 50 people, was also organized by Craig and Madeleine Pickens, ex-wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, the Union-Tribune reported.