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  • “Competent Females,” Remarkable Women

    November 18, 2018

    Nancy Pelosi at symposium(Nancy Pelosi speaks at Dreamer Symposium at Trinity, October 2017, photo by Summer Faulk)

    Hey, sisters, did you hear the news?  The revolution is over!  Congressman Tim Ryan tells us so!  “There’s plenty of really competent females” in Congress, according to Brother Tim!  Whew!  Glad we settled that, because with so many incompetent men in Congress, we need somebody who knows what they’re doing!

    Ryan’s back-handed compliment to “competent females” (so redolent of “some of my best friends are….” rhetoric) is no generous compliment from a recovering male chauvinist.  Au contraire, clumsy phraseology aside, his statement is actually an attack on the most effective leader the U.S. House of Representatives has had in decades.  Nancy Pelosi (Trinity ’62) is tough enough and politically skilled enough to prevail over the cheap machinations of Ryan, a man who is not above using other women in his fight to keep Pelosi from becoming Speaker of the House for the second time in her career.  Ryan is attempting to discredit Pelosi’s clearly superior track record and experience by injecting the gender card into his campaign against her.  Seriously, Congressman, all “competent females” are not necessarily ready to be Speaker of the House — nor are most men, as recent history reveals.

    Nancy Pelosi is a remarkably effective political leader whose achievements during her first tenure as Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011 are legendary.  A New York Times story on November 15 puts it this way:  “[Pelosi] is considered by both Democrats and Republicans to be the most effective speaker in modern times. Were it not for her political skill and keen strategic sense, they say, President George W. Bush could not have secured the bank bailout he needed to halt an economic free fall and President Barack Obama could not have passed the Affordable Care Act.”

    Pelosi greeting students(Nancy Pelosi greeting Trinity students at the Dreamer Symposium, October 2017, photo by Summer Faulk)

    But, as many news stories attest, Pelosi has been demonized for years by the Republican media machine, to the extent that some Democrats have distanced themselves from her in order to win their elections.  This spinelessness on the part of some Democratic members of Congress plays into the hands of those on the political right who not only want to block Pelosi’s return to the powerful Speaker’s chair, but also, they want to keep the Democrats fractured and consumed by infighting.  Those who think that a different, less experienced person in the Speaker’s chair would be more effective in promoting a progressive agenda while blocking the more destructive effects of Trumpism are clueless about the real dangers this nation faces right now.  Experience, not gender nor age nor extremist views, should be the deciding factor.

    Nancy Pelosi’s style in handling opposition should be a case study for all those who seek leadership positions, and particularly for women.  At least to the public eye, she exudes supreme confidence about her abilities and destiny to be successful in whatever she undertakes.  “Know your power,” is her constant refrain.  In a recent CNN interview, political reporter Dana Bash put it this way:  “As she was telling me how qualified she is to be House speaker again, it struck me how unusual it is to hear a woman talk so confidently about how uniquely qualified she is for a job or position she is seeking. Though I am no shrinking violet, it is often hard for me to toot my own horn that way, something I admitted in the moment to Pelosi. 

    “For most women, frankly, myself included, it is hard to say those words, ‘I am uniquely qualified. I deserve this. I earned this. I can do this better than anyone else,'” I told Pelosi.

    “You know why I do it? I do it, because I want women to see that you do not get pushed around. You don’t run away from the fight,” she responded.”

    Demonizing powerful women is as old as civilization itself — in centuries past, a woman who stepped up to leadership might have been declared a witch and burned at the stake or otherwise banished and despised.  Today’s powerful women simply have to put up with Twitter trolls and demeaning advertising and ugly smears and the abject disloyalty of people who should know better.  Learning to cope with all of that while remaining effective is a trait that successful women leaders have to develop.

    Trinity Women have been in public leadership for generations, and each can tell her own story of the private battles and personal attacks that go along with the public persona.  Before Nancy Pelosi went to Congress, our first Congresswoman was Barbara Bailey Kennelly, Class of 1958, now distinguished professor of Political Science at Trinity.  As Congresswoman Kennelly, Barbara was one of very few women in the House of Representatives from 1982 to 1999; she was the first woman to serve on the House Intelligence Committee, and one of few women back then to serve on Ways and Means.  Like Leader Pelosi, Congresswoman Kennelly knew her power in Congress and was always supremely confident despite the many barriers to women’s progress — and like Nancy, Barbara also fought for legislation to improve the status and condition of women.

    In the White House, Kellyanne Conway, Class of 1989, counselor to the president, is the latest Trinity alumna to serve a president, and she, too, knows the kind of personal attacks that women in leadership incur.  I’ve had my disagreements with Kellyanne but I do not condone the personal vilification that she receives.  Before Kellyanne, Maggie Williams, Class of 1977, served as chief of staff to First Lady Hillary Clinton as well as assistant to President Clinton; Maggie was the highest ranking African American woman in the Clinton White House.  She, too, knew the scorching rhetoric that often beleaguers women in high places.

    Trinity Women serve in public office in many other ways.  Kathleen Passidomo, Class of 1975, just won another term in the Florida State Senate, and she is very effective serving her constituents in southwest Florida.  Rosemary Collyer, Class of 1968, is a senior judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and currently serves as the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  Claire Eagan, Class of 1972, is a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, and she, too, serves on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

    These are just a few of the many remarkable Trinity Women who have served in public office, and each one goes beyond mere competence to true excellence.  Trinity Women know that gender is not the reason for anyone to get hired or promoted — but nor should gender (or age, or race, or other personal characteristics) be used against women to block our progress.

    Our Trinity Sister Nancy Pelosi is poised to become, once again, one of the most powerful political leaders in our country.   I, for one, do hope that she is elected Speaker of the House and is able to be an agent for the kind of change we need so much right now.  Whether you agree or disagree with her politics, we surely can join in a prayer of hope that if she does become Speaker of the House in January, may she take office with the strength, wisdom and love of the Trinity to guide her in these extremely perilous times for our country.

    Let the revolution continue!

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    The Ugly American

    November 12, 2018

    (image credit)

    The Ugly American was on display in Paris this past weekend, except when he was a no-show entirely.  It seems hard to mess up a ceremonial occasion observing the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I.  Not much more was expected of world leaders other than to show up, appear appropriately and solemnly engaged, say some good words about the heroic soldiers who gave their all so long ago, and pledge to work together to spare civilization yet one more horrific war.

    President Trump, however, could not resist continuing to play the role he fills so well, the iconoclast, the person who attacks settled beliefs, a man who cannot bring himself to visit a war cemetery during a light rain, a world leader who cannot find the grace to walk up the Champs Elysee shoulder-to-shoulder with other world leaders.  For whatever reasons he skipped these important symbolic public displays of unity with peers from other nations, his absence thundered a message of isolation for America, disdain for the very idea of unity with European leaders in particular, contempt for diplomatic norms that are the necessary oils to keep the gears of international peace and understanding working well.

    A few weeks ago, President Trump proudly declared himself a “nationalist” and deliberately pitted his use of that word against the term “globalist” which he decried as someone who is more interested in the whole world than in the welfare of the nation.  This definition is plain wrong, echoing historic strains of fascism and anti-semitism.  His use of these terms also was a red flag to citizens and leaders alarmed by our nation’s increasing hostility to international alliances and mutual cooperation on issues ranging from defense to climate change.

    President Emanuel Macron of France had a stinging response in his speech on Saturday at the Arc de Triomphe:  “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” he said. “In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”

    “The Ugly American” is a concept created by the novelists Eugene Burdick and William Lederer in a 1958 novel (later a movie starring Marlon Brando) depicting the failures of American diplomacy in southeast Asia.  The fundamental problem of the American approach to international relations and diplomacy was a failure to respect and appreciate the cultures, languages, customs and traditions of other nations and peoples — a problem at that time that led to the U.S. quagmire in Vietnam, but a problem that continues to this very day in President Trump’s approach to global affairs.  The problem is not only a philosophical stance that treats other nations and alliances with disdain, but in fact, his contempt for immigrants and persons who are different by color, race, language, belief, nationality custom and a host of other characteristics is not only morally abhorrent but also a formula for increased national hostilities and diplomatic failures.  Building a wall across the southern border to keep out certain kinds of people (brown, poor, refugees, homeless, nationless) is not so distant a move from withdrawing from the global climate accords or refusing to participate in the Peace Forum in Paris that took place immediately after the WWI memorial ceremonies.  America First becomes America Alone, and rather than being a leader on the world stage, we have become increasingly isolated and marginalized.

    I am reflecting on all of this after spending a week in Barcelona where I was part of a special gathering of university presidents of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) discussing how we could expand opportunities for our students to study abroad.  We were convened by CIEE (the Council on International Educational Exchange) and the University of Pennsylvania Center for Minority Serving Institutions for several days of learning about programmatic options and good exchanges on funding sources and the benefits for students and faculty to spend time abroad.

    As I thought about our discussions in Barcelona and the isolation of President Trump in Paris, the contrast between these two competing approaches to the world became very clear to me.  In so many ways, the population of the United States IS the world today, but our current president represents America as if we were all only one narrow band of that population, “the base” that is predominantly white, conservative, and, by his own admission and preference, less well educated than the urban populations that are hugely diverse by race, color, ethnicity, language, belief and so many other characteristics.

    Colleges and universities have an important obligation as well as an opportunity to raise America’s profile to the world in a different way than what politicians represent.  Our students abroad are curious and open to learning about other people and their ways of life, and our students also become important teachers and ambassadors about the diversity of American life in ways that people of other nations may not otherwise experience.  However, the vast majority of American students who participate in study abroad are white women.  The Penn MSI Center and CIEE, working in a partnership, aim to broaden that population through a creative program to engage institutions like Trinity that serve a majority of students of color in creative thinking about study abroad programming.

    In prior generations, Trinity students did study abroad in various locations, but in more recent years as our students have had steep financial burdens, their ability to take a semester or year abroad has been limited.  Additionally, our students are interested in a different experience than in the past — study abroad for health professions, business, STEM students and educators is increasingly important, and in a broader range of locations, not only Europe but also Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.  Through the CIEE/CMSI partnership and other initiatives, we are developing funding sources and program options that will make it possible for more Trinity students to experience some form of study abroad.

    I will be providing much more on this initiative as well as the development of a new program called the Trinity Global Leadership Initiative.  Our goal is to raise awareness among all Trinity students in all academic programs at all degree levels of the vital importance of global affairs on all dimensions of life and work today.  Along with curricular initiatives, we will be developing resources to support an expanded study abroad program, using the lessons learned from students who participated in the Carnegie Study Abroad program in summer 2018.

    We cannot sit back and let the “Ugly American” stereotype presented by our political leaders prevail.  The fate of our nation and way of life depends heavily on our ability to work well with all other nations, to respect and support other peoples, to put the interests of the human family at the top of our list of priorities.

    With presidents of MSIs in Barcelona, standing from left:  Dr. James Pellow, president of CIEE; Dr. Cynthia Jackson Hammond, president of Central State University; Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University; Dr. Rudolph Crew, president of CUNY Medgar Evers College; Dr. Beverly Wade Hogan, president of Toogaloo College; Dr. Roslyn Artis, president of Benedict College; Dr. David Thomas, president of Morehouse College; Dr. Michael Amirides, president of the University of Illinois – Chicago; and seated from left:  Dr. Anthony Munroe, president of Essex County College; Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson, president of Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles; Dr. Eduardo Padron, president of Miami-Dade College; yours truly; and Dr. MaryBeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

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    America, You Have One Job: VOTE!

    November 5, 2018

    I’m sitting in a hotel room 4,000 miles away thinking of you, America.  I came to Barcelona for a conference to learn about opportunities for Trinity students to participate in study abroad programs in greater numbers, and with more funding.  But from the minute we landed this morning and I disembarked into an airport teeming with thousands of people all speaking different languages and reflecting the cultures of the world, my thoughts have been “back home” with the United States and the statement we must make to the world in the mid-term election that is happening on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

    I want our Trinity students to be able to study abroad in a world that still respects America.  I want our students to be welcomed into other nations as signs and symbols of the great diversity of the United States, of our promise of equal opportunity and justice, of our values of freedom and compassion and hope for the future of human society.  I shudder to think of what the world actually thinks about America today, about a nation that is so tarnished by hatred, by xenophobia, by political corruption and a leader who seems truly mad on too many occasions.

    Once upon a time the United States embraced this vast village of the world’s peoples with wide open arms and zest as the most influential nation in world history.  Our grandparents and great-grands and more distant ancestors all were immigrants from these countries, unless they were part of the Native American diaspora — or unless they were forced to come to the U.S. in the holds of slave ships, an inescapably sorrowful and heinous truth of our national diversity.  Even with the evil of slavery and so many episodes of cruel nationalism and hatred directed toward “the other” over the years, the U.S. became a great nation precisely because of the great diversity of nations and cultures and perspectives and talents that comprise “We, the People” — and because our national heart grew with that diversity, even through the most troubled and regressive times.

    From the U.S., millions of soldiers and sailors and military personnel from all walks of life came to fight for freedom in Europe, in the Pacific, in the Middle East, in Asia, in Africa, in some of the world’s most troubled places.  We once were champions for global freedom, peace and justice for all of the world’s peoples.  We led formation of NATO, the UN, and other major movements for peace and security throughout the world.  We created the Peace Corps and devoted billions to humanitarian relief.

    But now we send troops to the Texas border to keep out the “least, the lost, the left out among us,” a tattered band of the poor of this earth walking thousands of miles to try to find some small hope, some modest relief from lives of oppression.  Our president speaks of them as if they are evil demons, not suffering human beings.

    “Not here!” bellows the current president.  We’re sending 15,000 troops to keep out a few thousand helpless, hapless refugees.  “If you throw rocks, we’ll shoot you!” shouts the president of the most powerful nation on earth, a man who thinks nothing of rattling nuclear sabres and taunting the powerful and the poor with equal venom.  When I hear the president of the United States speak so cavalierly of the use of our immense firepower, I am reminded of the saying of Albert Einstein, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”  He was referring to the likely terrible aftermath of nuclear war, but for the world’s poor even now, nuclear war is not the worst threat they face, but the cruelty and inhumanity of leaders in the most powerful and wealthy nation in human history.


    Who you vote for on November 6 is your business.  But if you are a citizen of the U.S., fulfilling your obligation to vote should be informed by principles and values for the common good of this nation.

    Will you vote for leaders who will advance the interests of all the people, not just those who claim to support them, not just those who take money from special interests?

    Will you vote for leaders who embody the ideals of justice and equity, who will work for peace and economic security for all people?

    Will you vote for public officials who respect and celebrate the many diverse peoples who inhabit this nation, and who understand and will work to strengthen the cause of national unity amid great diversity?

    Will you vote for responsible politicians who have the moral sensibilities necessary to enact good laws and policies to help those in need, to regulate immigration sensibly and compassionately, to welcome those who come to these shores as refugees and people in great need of the healing we can provide as a wealthy nation, who will enact laws to stop the insane gun violence, who will put their energies and leadership talents into those causes that will ensure the advancement of human society in freedom and peace?

    Will you vote for leaders who will ensure that the world respects Americans, that our students can travel and study in other nations with a sense of pride and true camaraderie with the people of the global village?

    Will you make choices at the polls this week that will begin to restore a sense of balance in American political and social life, turning away from the hatred and violence, empowering those who seek to build a better society for all?

    America, you have one job to do.  Vote!  And in making your choice, be sure that you are choosing what is essential to restore the health of this great nation.  Vote for Democracy.  Vote for what has always made America great — our sense of moral responsibility for other people, our big heart and embrace of our humanitarian role in the world, our commitment to freedom and justice for all people.



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    Mob Rule and the Tree of Life

    October 28, 2018

    (Anti-semitic white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, August 2018, photo credit)

    There’s a particularly disturbing political ad running on WTOP radio these days, appearing often enough that the words really get into your head.  According to this ad, Democrats are “an unhinged angry mob of thugs” who promote all kinds of lawlessness and evil, described in extremely ugly and provocative language in the ad.  The person narrating the ad is none other than Corey Stewart, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia.  I don’t live in Virginia, and who Virginians elect to the Senate is their business.  But an aspiring U.S. Senator should be ashamed to use this kind of fearmongering rhetoric — but shame seems to be in short supply these days among leading politicians.

    Shame is not an emotion that the current president of the United States ever seems to feel.  His name-calling, race-baiting, press-bashing hateful rhetoric is well documented.  Following the large lawful protests over the nomination of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the president and his allies on Capitol Hill have resorted to accusing Democrats of encouraging “mob rule,” a rhetorical device intended to inflame the right-wing base of voters.  The “mob rule” meme also applies to the shameful rhetoric about “the caravan” of penniless, homeless, desperate refugees migrating from Central America through Mexico, a movement that reflects the hope that the United States still offers the poor and powerless of this world.  But the president and his friends have denounced this movement of refugees as another kind of “mob” and claimed — with “no proof” as the president readily admits — that the caravan harbors terrorists from the Middle East (thus also playing into the hateful stereotype of terrorists as swarthy Middle Eastern people — except for the wealthy Middle Eastern potentates with whom the president does business even as they apparently murder a journalist, but that’s another whole blog).  The “mob rule” meme and the “caravan” claims come together in the claim rampant on insidious rightwing websites and media outlets, encouraged by the president, that global philanthropist George Soros is funding the caravan, funded the Kavanaugh protests and other liberal causes.  Soros is Jewish, and invocation of his name triggers voluminous anti-semitic bile.

    In a week that started with a mail bomb sent to the Soros mailbox, and then more than a dozen similar packages mailed to prominent people who oppose the president including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others — a week that included the murder of two black patrons at a Kroger’s in Kentucky in an apparent hate crime — a week that culminated in the murders of 11 Jewish congregants at a synagogue in Pittsburgh — in just this past week we have seen the truth about mob rule:  the mob is gathered already in some of the darkest places of our nation, and the mob is aching for extreme and catastrophic violence.  The events of this week are not the culmination, but rather, clear and urgent warning signs.  The potential for widespread acts of murder and profound civil disorder is real and must not be dismissed.

    The “mob” is not the caravan of desperate refugees.  The “mob” is not the advocates and activists who speak out for justice for immigrants and Dreamers, who stand up for people who are beaten down by an immigration system that is badly broken.  The “mob” is not the legitimate protest activity of citizens, predominantly women, who are sick and tired of being demonized, trivialized, ignored and oppressed by politicians who treat women as objects of scorn, or worse, as easy targets of abuse.  The mob is not the courageous groups of young people protesting against gun violence and demanding an end to the proliferation of guns in this country.  The “mob” is not that group of people who voted for a different candidate for president, who hold views that are different, who want different results from what the president dictates, who want to hold the president accountable for his performance and behavior.  Members of the opposite political party are not the “mob” despite what Candidate Corey Stewart’s ad proclaims.

    The real mob that we must confront urgently and with moral conviction is that group of people who are motivated by hate — people who have murderous antipathy toward people of other races, religions, languages and nationalities, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.  The real mob rears its ugly head every time a white person accuses and berates (or worse, shoots) a black person just going about his or her business, or accosts a person speaking Spanish in a grocery and tells them to “go back to your country,” or confronts a Muslim or Jew and hurls epithets and threats, or blocks a transgender person from using a bathroom.

    The members of this mob, like most mobs, are not organized and may or may not know each other.  They are dangerous because they are a large collection of lone actors who all share some common features — hatred for people not like them, an obsession with conspiracy theories about our country and major public figures, susceptibility to fearmongering rhetoric by politicians, and a love affair with guns.  Guns.  So many guns.  Arsenals, really.  The more virulent the hatred, the bigger the arsenal.  All the members of the mob need is the trigger to unleash their fury.

    The president of the United States is, unfortunately, a master at playing with the trigger.  He uses language that incites the mob to action.  He attacks and berates everyone and anyone who disagrees with him.  He demonizes the opposition, he calls the media the “enemy of the people” constantly, he praises people who assault and abuse others.  Just days before the murders of 11 people in the Pittsburgh synagogue, the president declared, “I am a Nationalist,” surely something he must know invites Nazi comparisons.  He expresses contempt for “globalists” which is a thinly-veiled attack on Soros and other wealthy financiers, mostly Jewish.  Never have we seen a national leader so lacking in self-control, rational public conduct, temperate rhetoric.  It’s easy to tell when he’s reading a statement someone else wrote for him, the words come slowly and without inflection.  When he speaks from his own heart, the words are often cheap shots, violent, degrading others, mocking.  Words of kindness, empathy, sympathy, compassion, fairness, hope are almost never spoken.

    Washington Post Columnist Julia Ioffe has an excellent piece today asking the question: How much responsibility does Trump bear for the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh?  She writes, “The president did not tell a deranged man to send pipe bombs to the people he regularly lambastes on Twitter and lampoons in his rallies, so he’s not at fault. Trump didn’t cause another deranged man to tweet that the caravan of refugees moving toward America’s southern border (the one Trump has complained about endlessly) is paid for by the Jews before he shot up a synagogue. Trump certainly never told him, “Go kill some Jews on a rainy Shabbat morning.”  But this definition of culpability is too narrow, too legalistic — and ultimately too dishonest. The pipe-bomb makers and synagogue shooters and racists who mowed a woman down in Charlottesville were never even looking for Trump’s explicit blessing, because they knew the president had allowed bigots like them to go about their business… His role is just to set the tone. Their role is to do the rest.”

    Vice President Pence has said that the president’s rhetoric has nothing to do with the wave of violence that besets our nation.  He is wrong.  Like it or not, President Trump is our national leader, and as the leader, he has profound responsibility for shaping the current mindset of our society.  That’s what power really does.

    The late John Gardner, founder of Common Cause and a leading social thinker, wrote the best definition of public leadership responsibilities in his 1968 book No Easy Victories“Leaders have a significant role in creating the state of mind that is the society.  They can serve as symbols of the moral unity of the society. They can express the values that hold the society together.  Most important, they can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations, carry them above the conflicts that tear a society apart, and unite them in the pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts….We do need men and women in every community in the land who will accept a special responsibility to advance the public interest, root out corruption, combat injustice and care about the continued vitality of this land.   We need such people to help us clarify and define the choices before us.  We need them to symbolize and voice and confirm the most deeply rooted values of our society…We need them to rekindle hope….The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive — the hope that we can finally find our way through to a better world…”  (No Easy Victories, 1968, p. 134)

    Our current national crisis is a crisis of violence and hatred, yes, but also a crisis of leadership.  We do not have the kind of leadership that Gardner describes, quite the opposite.  Rather than kindling hope, our president instigates rage and fear and hatred.  Rather than promoting moral unity, our president sows discord and division.   Rather than helping us to clarify our values, our president displays a shocking lack of respect for essential values like justice, fairness, respect for every person, a disposition to service to others, helping those most in need.

    If our president were a reflective person, which he seems not to be, after the horrific tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, he might have sought out a local chapel to sit in quiet meditation for a few hours to reflect on his own role and responsibility for the horrors borne once again by innocent people as a result of bigotry and hatred run rampant, conditions that are fostered by the turgid rhetoric of our political leadership.  He might have prayed for the wisdom to find the right words to comfort the families, but also, to lead the nation in a time of grief.  A few moments of quiet reflection might have helped him to avoid saying stupid things like we should have armed guards in our churches, or the people at the synagogue were killed because they didn’t have guns among them, or that the death penalty would stop this madness.  Stupid, insensitive, and wrong.

    If he were at all a spiritual person, he would reflect on the meaning of the Tree of Life, the sad irony that the synagogue where the shootings took place carried that name, and the responsibility that even a secular leader carries to promote the most life-giving parts of human existence while doing everything in his power to defeat whatever diminishes and ruins the hope and promise of human society.

    As citizens of this democracy, all of us must take the time for similar reflection, and in those moments to develop the determination to take action.  Against the ugly, hateful, murderous mobs, we must be a force for good, for hope, for justice for those who are so afflicted in so many ways by the hate.  We must find the strength to stay engaged for the sake of this nation’s future.  Ultimately, individual political leaders move on, though certainly they can leave plenty of damage behind them.  But the glory of this nation is the fact that We the People have carried on for 230 years across many times of challenge, conflict, war and domestic violence, slavery and racial oppression, economic misery and political chicanery.  The United States is far from a perfect union or perfect state, but it remains the best hope for human advancement on this small planet.  Our job is to pick our leaders wisely, to push them toward the right choices for governance, and to remove them if they cannot do the job well.   We must VOTE in every single election.

    Once again, we pray for the dead.  And we must keep fighting like hell for the living.

    Let’s remember those who died at the Tree of Life synagogue with the traditional Jewish prayer of remembrance:

    At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
    At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
    At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
    At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
    At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
    At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
    As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

    When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
    When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
    When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
    When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
    When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
    For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.

    Sylvan Kamens and Jack Riemer, New Prayers for the High Holy Days (Media Judaica, Ins., 1970) edited by Rabbi Jack Riemer, p. 36(Tree of Life, Tiffany Glass)

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    Voices of Trinity: Symposium Topics, Trinity Resources

    October 23, 2018

    word cloud on sexual violence surveyIn this final installment about the results of our campus survey on sexual violence, we look at your responses to questions about what topics to include in a symposium, and also, your opinion of Trinity’s policies on sexual violence and our campus resources.  Many thanks to all students, faculty and staff who shared these comments!  We will be back in touch with you about the next steps in planning the campus symposium on #MeToo and sexual violence.

    Question 5:  If Trinity conducts a symposium on the problem of sexual violence and the #MeToo movement, what topics would you recommend for inclusion?

    Student comments:

    • How to teach our young men that sexual violence is a crime. No means no.
    • Sexual abuse and violence prevention techniques – beginning in very early childhood for both males and females, same-sex, sex abuse and violence in families, in schools and the clergy. This is a widespread problem not taken seriously enough in part because of the historical role of sexual abuse that is ingrained in our society.
    • Earlier intervention/education. If children have no words to describe what is happening to them, how do you expect them to report it? That is part of the reason child abuse takes so long to come out.
    • Families not doing anything about abuse, Trauma
    • How to navigate a world in which you are shamed when you admit to being a victim…how to control your own narrative after becoming public?
    • Talk about how it affects marginalized populations. Much has been said already about the wealthy and White victims.
    • As a victim of sexual assault, I would like to see a topic on sexual harassment in school. Specifically I would want to know what Trinity’s actions would be if a case or report would be brought to the school’s attention.
    • I would want the symposium to be intersectional and talk about all groups of people who experience sexual assault …include that men can get sexually assaulted as well.
    • Stereotypes and Sexual violence, how Americans perceive other cultures for sex. E.g. Latinas are easy and sexy, what Muslin women look like under their clothes.
    • Changing the dialogue. “She was raped” to “he raped her” Keep the blame on the rapist.
    • How African American women of all intersections are being raped and killed without any news coverage at a higher rate than any other race.
    • Are you to blame? where you can discuss the social view of peers and others that could make a person feel as though its their fault and how to know that you either did everything in your power to prevent it from happening or to not allow it to have happened -am i the only one? where you explain facts and statistics and discuss programs targeting this issue that can help others and the people affected by it …
    • Sexual violence towards black women and the LGBT community and ideas on how to fix this issue.
    • Who can you talk to if you can’t go to your parents.
    • Sexual violence to be covered across the spectrum— men, women, and children. An understanding of resources and prevention. A panel of experts to discuss signs that children have been sexually violated, how to support them, and resources for them. The bystander effect. How to help those who are the prosecutors of the matter— how can we support the abuser.
    • I would recommend there be discussions about how higher education can play a part in preventing sexual assault and harassment. Also Q&A workshops will also be helpful in getting the discussion going.
    • I think topics of self love. I think as a victim myself it took me a while to understand that none of what happened to me was my fault. It took me three years to be okay with who I was and to understand that what happened to me does not define who I am. Helping others understand what a toxic relationship is or the early signs of one.

    Comments from Faculty and Staff:

    • Include a victim who is willing to share their story. People who hear stories from other people, specifically from victims, give credibility and “life” to this problem. It eliminates people’s thinking that they don’t know or have never heard anyone anyone who was abused.
    • Talk about how it affects marginalized populations. Much has been said already about the wealthy and White victims.
    • Where to go/ how to access mental health support on campus
    • Diversity in the #metoo movement. Not silencing women of color
    • A deconstruction of the notion that “boys will be boys” but women are to blame for their behavior; Media portrayals of women; the objectification of women; how to handle workplace harassment…
    • Discussion of the effect on victims from a psychological perspective. What to do if you or a friend are/have been a victim of sexual assault. Available resources. What we can do socially/politically to address issues of sexual assault.
    • Focus on what consent is, how we can teach and talk to youth (especially men!) differently so that they do not sexually assault someone.Yes, women also sexually assault others, but it is extremely rare compared to male perpetrators.
    • Actual statistics on how many sexual assaults are reported versus unreported, how media and Washington helps reinforce a toxic culture, along with their role in indirectly or directly shaming victims for either telling their stories or telling them too late.
    • Sexual violence as it impacts African American women Sexual violence as it impacts immigrants, particularly the undocumented, and the risk of human trafficking
    • I recommend a session exploring men’s roles in the #MeToo movement. Women have worked tirelessly to bring attention to sexual violence and many have shared their personal, painful stories in the hope of bringing about change. There needs to be more discussion about and among men regarding how we can work to stop sexual violence and how we can address the toxic masculinity, male privilege, patriachy, etc. that allows sexual violence to persist. This session could explore the ways in which men can hold other men accountable and eradicate the culture of violence.
    • Is there a difference in how the Catholic Church operates from White parishioners than with those of color? Curious as to why Black Catholics (in US) have not noted any of this kind of abuse among parishioners. Also, how will the legal system handle the Catholic church for its sexual assault crimes?
    • I am concerned, deeply for the students. The situation we are facing is one where there is an abuse of power by those at the highest levels in both the Catholic Church and the U.S. Government. I truly believe there needs to be more of a conversation among and between students, peer-to-peer with good moderators and really thoughtful people who are not or do not represent people of power in their lives. I want the students to feel empowered and not disempowered by this conversation and I don’t want to see them wallowing in self-pity either. We need to have productive conversations that help students to find a way forward and not wallow in a reality-show version of this or have it reduced to slogans, party-labels, tropes…..this is so incredibly serious, the implications for the students, faculty and society at large.
    • How to create an environment where victims of all genders can tell their stories. I think a lot of people don’t tell their story because they don’t feel safe with people around them: parents, spouses, relatives, coworkers, etc. They might think that they will be judged or not believed or worst, made feel different.
    • I would like to hear more about what students, faculty and staff experience, and what levels of harassment exists on college campuses today. I would also be interested in ways to be an advocate.
    • The real question to ask, is there a problem at Trinity? Beyond that, are we clear with what the definition of sexual violence versus groping,and or sexual language misuse.
    • Intersectionality Racism Classism/Socio-economic impacts
    • I have many thoughts about this, but one topic I feel is particularly important is the nature of the ideology of patriarchy and an informed discussion of why it is so difficult to dislodge or change patriarchal values at a fundamental social level.
    • How to appropriately handle the situation if a student comes to you and discloses information regarding someone that may have sexually assaulted them.
    • I would like to see a sex-positive sex educator running a workshop on the elements of consent (how to ask for it, what it looks like, and how to know when it’s violated. Then, what to do about it.)
    • The power of the feminine voice (or lack there of). What the concept of “feminism” really means. How men should address the issues. How women should address the issues.
    • The elevated risks for LGBTQ people, immigrants, and women of color.

    Question 6:  Trinity has promulgated several policy statements on Harassment and Sexual Misconduct (Title IX), and we conduct educational programs and staff training on these issues periodically. How effective are these policies and programs?

    The box below provides the statistical data on answers to two statements, broken out by students and faculty/staff.  Below the box are comments on this topic.

    Statement #1:  Trinity’s policies on Harassment and Sexual Misconduct (Title IX) are effective.
    Students 62% 32% 6%
    Faculty/Staff 59% 39% 1%
    Statement #2:  Trinity’s resources to assist victims of Harassment and Sexual Assault are effective.
    Students 53% 42% 6%
    Faculty/Staff 43% 50% 7%

    Student comments:

    • Every year there is an email sent out with the link of Title IX, which honestly, most students do not
      read it. I would suggest having a workshop for students to attend and learn about the policy. Or
      even having it discussed in classes. Sexual violence is prevalent throughout the world, so, I
      believe it is important for all of us to come together and find ways to prevent it. Or if one had been
      sexually abuse, find ways to cope with it.
    • I think having some sort of class or workshop for students that talk about consent and what it
      means/how no means no could be beneficial. I think that teacher training is great and should
      continue to happen.
    • I haven’t attended a sexual violence/abuse/defense class on campus. I would love to attend and
      participate. Also, if not done so already, the classes should be available to any individual
      associated with Trinity
    • A class should be designated and required for this topic. Training is held for staff but what training
      is held for students?
    • Trinity does an awesome job listening and advocating for their students! Continue to listen and
      provide avenues for the women to be heard, to grow and be taught! Continue to have students
      walk together around campus in pairs/groups for safety.
    • I think making more vocal the fact that Trinity has these services would help because I was not
      aware of them.

    Faculty/Staff Comments:

    • I would hope that Trinity’s policies and services are subject to continued reflection as to what could be improved and what more can be done. As long as our students and faculty and staff have to face the present attitudes toward sexual assault and harassment, there should never be a time when we as Trinity can say we have done enough.
    • Are services well known? Are victims being identified, and are they seeking and being given such services? Perhaps more publicity or information on a regular basis would be appropriate.
    • I think that as part of orientations (student, faculty, and staff) it would be helpful to have a seminar or workshop on inclusive language and behavior. The languages of war, sports, and politics are rife with images of dominance, death, and destruction. Unfortunately these languages permeate our social consciousness and make it easy to harass or intimidate others.
    • People that are victims are not going to go to a seminar because they believe that people somewhat may see what happened to them; that they’ll be found out. Although the policies are available online, I believe that a webinar would be more effective or an additional tool to reach more people

    Thanks to everyone for your candid comments.  I learned some important perspectives as I read the survey answers.  Perhaps most important, this topic is of great interest to students, faculty and staff.  Many of you feel that Trinity can do much more to address the topic of sexual violence, resources to aid assault victims, discussion of consent, candid talk about how to deal with people who commit sexual assaults.

    Trinity does have strong and clear policies on these topics, including the Harassment Policy and the Sexual Misconduct Policy (Title IX).  We also maintain a body of resources for victims of sexual assault.  We conduct routine training for faculty and staff.

    However, the comments above tell me that we can do a far better job communicating, engaging, and helping our campus community to feel educated, protected and well-resourced as we all cope with a society where sexual violence is a major problem.  Improving our communications and services for sexual assault is a major emphasis as we plan the spring program.  We will be creating more opportunities for your input and engagement as we go forward.

    One topic that came through in some of the comments:  what does Trinity do if someone commits an act of sexual harassment, assault or any related form of violence?  Our policies spell out procedures, but here’s my direct answer:  we do not tolerate any such behavior, and we will make every effort to separate a perpetrator of sexual violence from our campus.  We have taken disciplinary actions and personnel actions in cases in which someone assaulted another person, or verbally abused or harassed another person, or sent lewd or harassing messages.

    We want to know if you are experiencing any situation involving harassment, assault or abuse committed by anyone at Trinity, and we will also assist you if you are a victim of assault by someone off-campus.  We can and do call the police if someone is assaulted.  We can and do terminate staff and dismiss students who violate these policies.  Our goal is to create and maintain a campus environment that is safe, free from harassment or violence of any sort, and supportive of everyone’s needs.

    Thanks again to everyone for your thoughtful participation in our campus survey.

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    Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
    Phone: 202.884.9050   Email:



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