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, Russian officials and operatives to “share” information make it unbelievable that Trinity should showcase Parscale.
If you’re trying to sell your products, 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 this entire story.
As for 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 propagandist, Milo Yiannopoulos, who is similarly unencumbered by truth and revels in controversy for the attention and money.
Yiannopoulos 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 hatemongers 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 of 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 this 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 Ekstein, who were especially key to the value of my education.
Denise Boehm graduated from Trinity University in 1987.