One month ago, Trinity University uploaded a video to Facebook spotlighting Brad Parscale, who graduated in 1999. Parscale was the digital adviser for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and was recently appointed campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 campaign.

“By having a liberal arts education and being able to understand the left and the right, the top and the bottom — all parts of history, all parts of business — I was able to make a decision, because I wasn’t pushed to one edge,” said Parscale in the video. “I was well-rounded.”

The alumni pushback was immediate: 103 “angry” reactions and 127 comments, most critical of either Parscale himself or of the university for promoting the man commonly credited for Trump’s unexpected electoral victory.

Two weeks after the video was posted, a whistleblower revealed that Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining consulting company that fumbled with millions of Trump’s campaign cash, had obtained data on 87 million Facebook profiles in violation of the social media giant’s privacy policies. The proximity of Cambridge Analytica to Parscale’s operations makes Trinity’s marketing move seem particularly ill-timed.

Dunking on Parscale is fun, and booing Trinity for celebrating the achievements of its measurably most harmful alumnus is absolutely justified. But we’ll hold off on that for the annual “fake news” issue, the Trinibonian. Just two more weeks, y’all.

In the meantime, we want to caution alumni against one particularly harmful threat some were contemplating online: withholding future donations to the university in protest of the Parscale video.

Clearly the outrage is genuine. But chipping away at the school’s bottom line isn’t the answer.

Trinity’s an expensive school. The students who pay full-price tuition still aren’t covering the entire real cost of their education, and those students are a minority; in the 2015-16 academic year, 93 percent of students received some form of financial support.

Plenty of that assistance is coming not from the federal government or third-party sources, but from the university itself. Part of the annual earnings on Trinity’s $38.4 million endowment are put toward scholarships and other forms of financial aid, but the school depends on annual giving to provide for students who have earned aid and those who need it.

Alumni donations make the Trinity education a reality for ourselves and our peers. It would be selfish to benefit from your degree and refuse to help afford others the same opportunity.

A similar case can be made against the prevailing attitude amongst students, that the university doesn’t deserve their donations or their parents’ — but that’s a discussion for another week.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Esteemed Editor:

    Your April 4 Trinitonian editorial, “Don’t stop donating over Parscale” implies that Trinity only found out about the possibility of Parscale’s alleged malfeasance regarding Facebook data and Cambridge Analytics’ use of it on behalf of the Trump campaign two weeks after the university posted the video. Such bad timing, the editorial laments, asking alumni to keep on contributing because how could the Trinity administration and PR team have known?

    And it’s expensive to go to Trinity! As alumni, many of us sympathize with you on the cost of higher education, finishing up paying off our own student loans just as we send our kids who are about your age off to similar institutions.

    As to timing, while it’s true that the Cambridge Analytics’ whistleblower did indeed make his claims after the Trinity video posted, CNN reported in May 2017 that the campaign’s data analytics’ operation was already under investigation. Parscale denies involvement in Facebook and Cambridge Analytics’ actions, stating that he has done no wrong; however, his guilt or innocence in a court of law is not the point when trying to make Trinity look good.

    Trinity’s administration and PR team should be selecting the best, unclouded associations and activities to promote the university, not lauding alumni who are already established as subject to investigation for illegal use of data and possible collusion with Russian operatives to influence an election. Facebook’s previously-established nonactions to prevent foreign influence on the election, coupled with the numerous confirmed meetings between Trump’s team and Russian officials and operatives to “share” information make it unbelievable that Trinity should showcase Parscale.

    If you’re trying to sell your product, services, solutions, education, or anything of the sort, you don’t put a potentially polluted feather in your cap. It’s not a political issue; it’s basic PR that you don’t promote a possible criminal as your best and brightest when they’re involved in a situation that has been smelling bad for months. Media timelines don’t add up as to what Trinity should have known before lionizing Parscale.

    As to Parscale’s well-rounded Trinity education, he only spent a year there, right? So, I guess he got most of his history, politics, and ethics lessons elsewhere, if at all, which is the only bright light for Trinity in his entire story.

    As to withholding donations, Trinity lost me when they provided seating space and oxygen on its campus to Dinesh D’Souza, whose hate-filled rhetoric and “research” wouldn’t pass the basics of peer review on the neglected bathroom floor of an abandoned gas station, i.e., he makes stuff up and sells it with stridency unburdened by facts. The university has also opened its arms to another progagandist, Milo Yiannopolis, who is similarly unencombered by truth and revels in controversy for the attention and money.

    Yiannopolis and D’Souza have both been barred by social media platforms such as Twitter for their hate mongering. Despite their complete lack of academic and personal integrity though, Trinity invites them in. If either of these speakers could demonstrate a shred of academic support for their rants, I would understand why they are given space to speak at Trinity, however, they cannot.
    Yet, Trinity holds a place to promote hate-mongers and people under legal and ethics investigations and expects no one to notice and to donate more money.

    Free speech is not equivalent to Trinity or any other private entity providing an air conditioned place to speak, ushers, electricity, bathrooms, water, and parking, not to mention positive video posts and free public relations. Let such unproven, suspicious people stand on their own lawns or some public place where they’ve procured a license to make their point. Trinity does not owe any liar, racist, or social media expert who is allegedly involved in election fraud a platform, let alone a promotion, especially one that brings embarrassment to the university.

    My daughter applied to Trinity at my request several years ago and was offered a full scholarship, but she had a different preference. I would not make such a request to her today, let alone donate money to Trinity unless the university demonstrates it understands the difference between hacks and potential criminal behavior versus people with different viewpoints based in fact, valid research, and who are not under investigation for illegal acts that subvert American democracy.

    As an editorial board, I would ask you to promote that conversation with the administration, and I applaud any attempts you have made or will make to that end. Asking alumni to ignore the discussion between fact and fiction, ethics and immorality, and the true meaning of free speech will not solve the problem or its effects on you financially and educationally, and I am sensitive to your needs as students. I’m not proud of Trinity right now. I have no intention of shining it on or giving money to make Trinity, where I received an amazing education, seem justified in some really poor judgment. Indeed, it’s my duty to call them out when they act against the values they taught me. All the best to the Trinitonian staff, Trinity students, and professors who make Trinity what it is. My very personal thanks to Dr. Mary Ellen Ross and Dr. Nina Eckstein, who were especially key to the value of my eduation.

    References:
    https://www.cnn.com/…/fbi-russia…/index.html
    http://time.com/…/brad-parscale-donald-trump-campaign…/

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