Discover. Grow. Become. Trinity’s tagline is affirming to those who seek a personalized liberal arts experience, a goal of which is to produce civically engaged members in a free society. When its alumni succeed, Trinity should rightfully be proud and celebrate their success.

When one begets success through questionable, possibly illicit tactics, however, it is concerning that Trinity would actively highlight it. Yet Trinity did precisely this when it produced a video of alumnus Brad Parscale it posted to Facebook on March 6. It begs the question: Who approved it?

Political opinions aside, Parscale’s actions as digital director for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign are antithetical to the values Trinity claims to promote. To wit, Parscale tells an absurdly verifiable lie in the video’s first minute that Trump’s was the first digitally driven presidential campaign.

It sets the tone for validating a man who gained fame via his close association with an ethically and morally bereft, willfully ignorant president. Moreover, it is confounding that Trinity would overlook this lie, given Trinity has its own active digital marketing team. Someone on it should know the basic fact that Obama’s digital operation transformed presidential campaigns.

Let me be clear: It strains ethical credulity that Trinity would celebrate a man Trump recently promoted for actively engaging in spreading false information — most people call it lying — to suppress voter turnout during the 2016 election.

Parscale works for a man who:

  1. Fosters xenophobia, sexism and racism;
  2. Actively tries to suppress the truth, threatens and retaliates against those who try to expose it;
  3. Bullies people in person and online and encourages others to attack them — physically, if necessary;
  4. Though married, is a serial philanderer, including with porn actresses; and
  5. Actively undermines the institutions upon which we have built our democracy.

Some argue it is Trump, not Parscale doing the above mentioned. But Parscale, widely credited for his digital savvy, actively enables Trump. To be sure, Parscale punctuates many of his tweets with #MAGA.

Has anyone at Trinity asked him to define when specifically America was great and what made it so, or why it wasn’t great anymore before Trump? Has anyone at Trinity discussed with Parscale why many perceive the hashtag as racist and then let him defend it on record? Trinity seems willing to overlook this to promote him.

Parscale boasts about his sophisticated digital operations and its role in Trump’s victory; U.K. and U.S. authorities remain skeptical. Their concerns focus on possible election law and privacy violations and data theft related to Cambridge Analytica, a firm Parscale consulted with to procure data.

Facebook has subsequently suspended Cambridge from its platform. Predictably, Trump’s team asserts that Cambridge played a minimal role in its digital efforts. Trump officials also said George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn played minimal roles in his campaign. The government has since indicted each of them.

His team also lied about a 2016 meeting with Russians, ostensibly about adoptions, that quickly unraveled. Because Trump is a documented serial liar, it is not surprising investigators do not take his team at its word.

As a Trinity and University of Pennsylvania alumnus — Donald Trump’s alma mater — I am interested in both schools’ responses to their high-profile alumni. Most colleges understandably are proud of an alumnus who ascends to the presidency. Not Penn.

Prior to the election, over 4,000 Penn alums signed a petition denouncing Trump. (Interestingly, the authors removed the signatories’ names, fearful of Trump Administration retaliation.)

Post-election, Penn’s president issued a statement about the campaign’s divisiveness in which Brad Parscale plays a significant role. Further, Penn alums have called on its administration to take a stronger stance against Trump.

Meanwhile, Trinity promotes Parscale.

Trinity’s mission and values statements include “integrity” and “honoring the dignity and worth of every person.” Where did Trinity see these traits in Parscale that warranted raising his profile among alumni and the broader public?

The video’s shameful implied pitch to prospective students says, “Come to Trinity, and you too can be like Brad.” To current students and alums, it signals an institutional preference for alums close to power and wealth, regardless of of their approach. It is highly offensive.

Integrity matters. Parscale’s actions transcend politics, because they undermine the core of what we value as a democracy: respect for our institutions, the rule of law and the pursuit of the truth.

He espouses actions on Trump’s behalf that do not make for a free citizenry, a core liberal arts tenet. Trinity performs a disservice by celebrating him.

32 COMMENTS

  1. I agree completely. I am also a Trinity and Penn alumnus and current Penn faculty member. The difference between embracing and rejecting those who propagate lies, create division, and invite hatred is stark. I would have expected better of Trinity.

  2. I agree. Trinity still has the post up on its Facebook page. It should be removed. Trinity through the years has worked hard to increase diversity and an open exchange of ideas; promoting Parscale–a man who has worked against these ideals–diminishes its accomplishments in these areas.

  3. Craig, I COMPLETELY agree with you. THANK you for addressing this issue… hopefully we will hear more than CRICKETS from TU administration on this. I certainly believe we are owed an explanation.

      • Hmmm. Electoral college and Russian intervention gave tRUMP the “win” – More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than any other losing presidential candidate in US history. 2.9 million more Americans thought America was already great!

  4. Thank you, Craig. As a chair of the 2008 Iowa Obama for American Campaign, and as an Elector, I appreciate your pointing out the fact that we ran the first digitally driven campaign. We worked to enhance voter turnout, and did so in a successful, proactive manner. Elwood R. Thompson, Trinity University Class of 1985 and 1988.

  5. Thank you for this well reasoned article and for highlighting the difference between diversity of opinion and integrity. The promotion of Parscale had me questioning the university’s judgement, but you’ve articulated it far better than I.

  6. I called the alumni office and received an email declaring the value of a Trinity education included listening to all sides. Also that Trinity received complaints from conservatives when Ezra Klein, Bernie, and other progressives came to campus. The issue for me was Parscale”s interest in voter suppression, which is antithetical to the values of our country. That point was lost/ignored in the response I received. I don’t need a reminder that one must be open to different political opinions. Trinity, unfortunately, needs to be reminded that subverting democracy is not a value to celebrate, no matter the political afffiliation of the perpetrator, no matter however cleverly done.

  7. What’s shameful is the paucity of logic and factual support in this article. By all measures, Brad Parscale has achieved a significant level of professional success which should be promoted by Trinity as with all highly visible and successful alumni.

    The one factual assertion you make, that Trump’s campaign was the “first digitally driven presidential campaign” is further clarified in the next sentence where he backs this statement by saying “it was the first time in history that web marketing was half of the budget”. This may be false, I am not sure what proportion of budget was spent by Obama in 2012, but by virtue of this clarification I would say to call this an “absurdly verifiable lie” is quite a stretch. Parscale’s claim was more that the proportion of spending and reliance on web marketing was historically high, not that it had never been done successfully.
    The remainder of your article is almost entirely political, despite the ironic lead-in to said details of “political opinions aside”. You have smeared Parscale by implying that his success was through “questionable, possibly illicit tactics” with no proof. If you have evidence that Cambridge Analytics engaged in “data theft” and “privacy violations” that extended beyond the parameters of the platform that was offered by Facebook at the time, please provide the details, or this claim is questionable as well… what one might term “false information” unless it is backed by evidence which will presumably emerge in a criminal or civil action of sorts. You have claimed as fact, as if it is common knowledge shared by all voters and citizens, that Trump does things like “fosters xenophobia, sexism, and racism” when this is a highly partisan opinion. Other rhetorical leaps, such as the fact that Papadopolous, Manafort, and Flynn were indicted somehow refutes Trump’s claims that they played a minimal role in his campaign, are nonsensical (could Papadopolous have been indicted AND played a minimal part)?

    The circuitous drift over to the 4000 anonymous Penn alumni is a very weak appeal to authority at best, and not surprising given how uniformly liberal Ivy League institutions have become.

    These are just a few examples of poor logic and superficial argumentation — not what I would think would be the standard for a Trinity graduate although it may meet the academic standard at Penn or NYU since the political opinions there are likely to align with the author’s opinion and will not presumably be forcefully rebutted.

    What is most disconcerting about this piece is that you are trying to set a precedent by claiming that if an alumni achieves success that is not in line with your political beliefs that not only should be success be denigrated but the individual in question is lacking in “integrity” and is, in your opinion, an morally reprehensible individual. If evidence comes out that Brad and team somehow broke the law and they are convicted for it — something stronger than the insinuation of “possibly illicit” tactics, then I will willingly join you in your opinion of Brad. Until then, we should recognize and celebrate a fellow alumnus who has indisputably achieved a very high measure of success as a professional.

    • Perhaps Craig’s primary error, with respect to your rebuttal, is his assuming that his readers would be sufficiently informed by recent media accounts, i.e. the evidence that you persistently claim is lacking, of the events he cites in his piece, that it would have been unnecessary to consume his limited space to spell it all out for your benefit.
      — A.J. D’Ambra (’85)

      • I mean Craig calls Brad a liar and person that supports voter suppression, Tom notes calling him a liar is disingenuous and the only evidence supporting voter suppression is this quote from a cited article:
        ‘In the words of an unnamed senior official quoted by Bloomberg, they’re running “three major voter suppression operations,” aimed at lowering turnout among liberals, young women, and black voters.

        The tactics of those initiatives include sharing Hillary Clinton’s 1996 “super predator” comments with black voters via Facebook, and sending residents of Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood critical messaging about the Clinton Foundation’s efforts in Haiti. According to the same official, such tactics “will dramatically affect [Clinton’s] ability to turn these people out.”

        If you think that is voter suppression, then there are going to be a lot of people that shouldn’t be highlighted by the school.

    • Interesting that you don’t see the irony in your long-winded “takedown” of my intellect and beliefs because they don’t align with yours. I got a good chuckle, but I stand behind everything I wrote.

      • You stand behind name calling. That’s nice. What do you suppose Trinity do? Fire Danny Anderson? For sharing the success of Trinity alumni simply because of some garbage you believe? Give me a break. Go join Hillary in her cell.

    • THANK YOU! Craig is clearly so far left he doesn’t know how to make a right turn. He’s too busy calling trump and his supporters stupid, racists and idiots. Enjoy the Trump Presidency Craig. You are the reason he will continue to win. I’m not a racist.

  8. Thanks to Craig for providing a moral compass on this issue. Trinity – most of your alums think you are wrong on this one, not because we disagree with his politics but because he lacks integrity.

  9. Amen, brother. It’s highly offensive to those of us actually working to embody the Trinity standard. A slap in the face for hardworking, honest, ethical people trying to unite instead of divide. Thank you for educating me on what it transpiring at our Alma Mater. Please tag me in any other info you find out.

  10. I agree completely. Of course the greatest irony is that he claims to have taken the Liberal Arts core but he apparently took one year of major classes in a technical field so he lies in the video about his experience at TU in a very basic way.

  11. Craig is exactly the reason why Trump got elected. This HATEFUL, moronic, OPINION piece is absolute garbage. Here’s to four more years of Trump and four more years of Craig crying.

  12. Craig — I am not sure what was ironic either in or with respect to my comments. I note that while you stand by your article you don’t really bother to refute any specific issues I raised.

    I don’t know Brad Parscale from Adam, but by any measure what he has accomplished as a professional is important, relevant, and effective and it was done at the highest level on the biggest stage. That you and others don’t agree with his politics doesn’t diminish this unless, as I noted, he did so illegally. Had he done this as part of the Obama team in 2012 I imagine you and others would be highlighting his accomplishments and singing his praises. It is absolutely appropriate for TU to highlight what he did.

  13. Tom—
    “I don’t know Brad Parscale from Adam, but by any measure what he has accomplished as a professional is important, relevant, and effective and it was done at the highest level on the biggest stage.”

    I didn’t mention any “Adam“ in my article. True, what Parscale accomplished is important, relevant, and effective, because it will probably have an effect on regulations around how we use and access information on the Internet and use it in future campaigns, but that’s not why Trinity highlighted him.

    You seem to be the one in capable of separating the politics from the individual. If Obama had Trump’s behavioral characteristics and ethics and Parscale worked for him, I would write the same thing.

  14. Craig,

    I presume that if Bill Clinton were an alumnus of Trinity, you would be angry at Trinity for promoting it.

    You listed 5 bad traits that Trump possesses, and I think you are right on most of these. But Clinton possessed 3 of 5, based upon the Lewinsky case and others.

    I think it’s a slippery slope when we get to Tell Trinity which successful alumni they are allowed to promote. Just because I don’t agree with an Alumnus’ views doesn’t mean that others cannot.

    • Paul,

      The article is not about Bill Clinton or a Trinity alumnus who worked for Bill Clinton. It is about Trinity promoting Brad Parscale. Write an article about Bill Clinton if you want a discussion on him.

      • Craig, your article proposed limiting which alumni Trinity should be allowed to promote— or limiting speech you disagree with. My response just pointed out the inherent challenges of speech limitations. When your speech code excludes half of our last four presidents, it makes me question your code.

        • Paul,

          “Question my code?” What does that even mean? This isn’t about the last four presidents, this is about Brad Parscale; what did you not understand about that?

          If you support hate speech, racism, sexism, and xenophobia, that’s your prerogative. I don’t, and I’m allowed to say so. I am allowed also to voice my displeasure with the administration for promoting such a person. If you’re committed to promoting free speech, you should know that free speech does not make one immune to being criticized for acting on it.

          • Craig,

            I was referring to your proposed speech code.

            You have countered my defense of free speech by calling me a racist. If you knew me, you would know that that is ridiculous, just as it would be silly to call the Trinity administration racist.

            I’m sure you are a good person with a strong set of values, and I fully support your right to speak out against Brad. But I don’t support your appeal to authority at Trinity to restrict their speech.

            Paul

          • Paul,

            Good to know that you think my concerns about someone who promotes hate and racist speech and lies are silly. The government is not permitted to preclude someone from speech; it does not work the same way at private organizations. Such organizations impose their own limitations, as they are permitted. Communities promote and uphold standards, and no one gets to say absolutely anything they want. If so, why did CPAC prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking last year and escort Mona Charen out this year if it is a “free speech absolutist” organization? Would you approve of Trinity letting someone make a video about killing police, discussing their favorite sexual positions in graphic detail, or even making pornography? Trinity makes conscious decisions about what it promotes and allows individuals to say under its auspices.

            Trinity’s decision to promote Parscale, whose actions are counter to Trinity’s mission and values, is an implicit message that it approves of his speech and his actions. I interpret his actions as racist and unethical. If you think that’s ridiculous or silly (your words), you and I will probably not agree on much.

          • Craig, great discussion! I’m not arguing as a free speech absolutist, and these are difficult and important issues.

            Where do we draw the line? Not sure we will solve that here, but I hope Trinity will continue to acknowledge successful alumni from both parties, even though we will disagree with candidate positions.

            My original post was meant to show that your proposal gets messy, with prominent politicians like Bill Clinton and the late Ted Kennedy failing the 5-part test you put Trump to. Even Obama ran in 2008 against gay marriage which I thought was unfortunate. But I would never accuse those who supported Obama as being homophobic, and I would certainly have been proud if a TU alum ran Obama’s campaign.

            Paul

          • Paul,

            Of course it gets messy; that’s life, we grapple with decisions, and we pay the consequences for our choices. The issue I have with what you’re advocating is you want to apply a universal standard to everyone that does exist. If it did, Trump would not have been elected to begin with. Imagine Obama bragging about his penis during a nationally televised debate and winning office. Imagine 19 women accusing Obama of sexual assault before the election and him getting elected. Imagine him being caught on an audio tape bragging about sexual assault on women before the election and winning. This doesn’t even address the racist and xenophobic statements. Parscale supported this and provided messaging for tweets and tweeted on Trump’s behalf during the campaign. NONE of this deals with politics or policy decisions–none of it. Trinity made a decision to promote a man who was comfortable enough to overlook these and many, many other Trump transgressions before and since the election that have nothing to do with politics.

            During a debate in 2008, George Stephanopoulos let a pre-selected voter ask Obama why he didn’t wear a U.S. flag pin on his lapel. Then, Obama had to address a pastor’s words, not his own. (Speaking of free speech, imagine a Jeremiah Wright video on Trinity’s page.) Do you see the difference?

            My argument has been over Parscale’s ethics, not his politics, and Trinity promoting them as a presumptive byproduct of attending. As I asked in my article, read Trinity’s mission and values statements and tell me where Trinity saw the qualities in those statements in Parscale.

  15. I’m very happy to see that Trinity presents people with a diversity of political viewpoints: left, right and center.
    So, something or someone that doesn’t agree with his Craig Mills’ viewpoint should be censored?!? I don’t think so. Maybe at NYU, but not at Trinity.
    Good job, Trinity U. Keep it up! Thanks, Bill

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