By Joseph McKellar
As proud alumni of the University of San Diego, spanning different generations, races, faith traditions, genders, sexual orientations and professions, we love and care deeply about the mission and moral core of USD. We support and cherish USD’s mission to operate as a “preeminent Catholic university known for educating students who are globally competent, ethical leaders committed to the common good and empowered to engage a diverse and changing world.”
We are proud of USD’s status as one of only 30 Ashoka Changemaker Universities in the country, which “reflects a deep conviction to develop ethical and responsible leaders committed to the common good,” and “creates an ecosystem to foster compassion and to provide knowledge and capabilities for building a humane world.”
This Wednesday, July 13th, 2016, Jenny Craig and Doug Manchester, two longtime prominent donors to the University of San Diego, will be co-chairing a major fundraiser for presidential candidate Donald Trump in Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego. Their monetary gifts to USD have resulted in their names adorning many buildings on our campus:
- The Jenny Craig Pavilion
- Manchester Child Development Center
- Manchester Hall
- Manchester Village Apartments
Given the immensely hateful and segregationist character of Mr. Trump’s comments during his presidential election campaign regarding immigrants, the poor and women, we hold in abhorrence the notion that two high-profile donors to our alma mater would be supporting the campaign of an individual whose rhetoric stands in direct opposition to the values and ethics USD proclaims to embody.
Throughout his candidacy, Donald Trump has promoted a rhetoric that contradicts Catholic Social Teaching, including disparaging some of our country’s most vulnerable people:
On immigrants: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists.”
On women: “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
On the economy: “The point is, you can never be too greedy.”
On inciting violence and racial anxiety: “If you see any somebody throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Just knock the hell out of them…. I’ll pay for the legal fees, I promise. In the good old days, this doesn’t happen because they used to treat them very very rough. And when they protested once, ya know, they would not do it again so easily…part of the problem, and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right? Our country has to toughen up, folks.”
On Muslims: “I think Islam hates us” / “(Muslims) are trying to take over our children and convince them how wonderful ISIS is and how wonderful Islam is.” / “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”
On torture: “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”
As such, we are writing to request that the president and Board of Trustees immediately publicly distance themselves from Ms. Craig’s and Mr. Manchester’s actions, as evidenced by writing an open letter to Ms. Craig and Mr. Manchester that explicitly expresses: 1) profound concern about their association with Mr. Trump, given their long-standing alliance and history with USD, and 2) a request that they withdraw their support of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
If they decline, we USD alumni insist upon the removal of their names from the buildings that associate them with the University of San Diego.
This is not a request for USD to take a partisan stand, 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.
Our families and our neighbors are being hurt by the biased and intolerant rhetoric that is fanning the flames of fear and racism in our country.
The presidential debate has devolved into a dehumanizing narrative that creates a hierarchy of human value, where some lives have more value than others. The belief that all lives matter – a cornerstone of Catholic Social Teaching and a principle taught to us during our time at USD – is being called into question by Donald Trump, with profound consequences for our country’s pursuit of equity, love and justice.
Pope Francis recently said, in response to a question from a reporter about Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”
St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians writes, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slaver. … For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We implore the leadership of our alma mater, the University of San Diego, to stand on the moral side of history, to courageously reflect the high calling for which our institution exists, and to urgently denounce the actions of Jenny Craig and Doug Manchester.
Joseph McKellar, a 2004 graduate, wrote this as an open letter to University of San Diego President James T. Harris and the Board of Trustees on behalf of USD Alumni and Students Against Hate.