March 1, 2016
A Message to the Valdosta State University Community
Dr. Cecil P. Staton, interim president of Valdosta State University, issued the following message to Blazer Nation today:
I would like to applaud the Valdosta State University community on how we represented ourselves yesterday during the visit of presidential candidate Donald Trump. Every four years our nation witnesses the drama of a presidential election with all of the associated emotion, passion and tension.
While some have asked why VSU would allow such an event, I am convinced that our campus and particularly our students are better informed for having this brief, up-close, birds-eye view of a presidential election. We endured for a day over-crowded parking conditions as well as the temporary inaccessibility of facilities due to heightened security. Protestors were able to make their voices heard in designated areas. Those who wished to attend stood in lines and passed through security screening. Some others, uninterested, were able to ignore the whole spectacle altogether. But for the first time in decades a major presidential campaign visited VSU and Valdosta and that is a good thing to have occurred.
One negative aspect of the event receiving considerable attention today was the removal of a number of people from the rally. While some are suggesting racial motives, law enforcement leaders are rejecting this claim (see: http://www.valdostadailytimes.com/news/local_news/police-chief-removal-of-youths-from-trump-rally-not-racial/article_b413b4f8-dfc3-11e5-868c-ebfa85fa78b5.html?utm_source=WhatCounts+Publicaster+Edition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Breaking_News&utm_content=READ).
While this is disturbing, it should be remembered that this was not a VSU sponsored event, but a private function. The Trump campaign, together with the Secret Service and other law-enforcement officials, had responsibility for such decisions, not VSU. As we reminded the campus via email last Friday, current federal law (HR 347) does not allow for protesting of any type in an area under protection by the Secret Service.
Fortunately today the sun is shining and our beautiful campus is more or less back to normal. There will be continued conversations about what took place here. But also remember that today is an election day. Attending a campaign rally or protesting is one thing, but the ultimate political act in our country is voting—voting our convictions and voting for the candidate of our choice. I encourage everyone to exercise this enormously significant right and responsibility.
For VSU, however, this is another occasion to be reminded of what a university really is. Our Blazer Creed summarizes it well. This is a community where we value free and open inquiry and discussion of ideas with civility, integrity, and citizenship. As a student and spectator of the political process in our country, I believe that all candidates and campaigns could learn from the Blazer Creed and benefit from following it as we do here at VSU.