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:
- Fosters xenophobia, sexism and racism;
- Actively tries to suppress the truth, threatens and retaliates against those who try to expose it;
- Bullies people in person and online and encourages others to attack them — physically, if necessary;
- Though married, is a serial philanderer, including with porn actresses; and
- 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.
Craig Mills “˜85 is a political science alumnus and active in Trinity’s New York City chapter. He teaches at NYU and writes freelance for the Daily Beast. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org