USD Donors Support Donald Trump – USD Community Requests Repercussions

It did not take long for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to become a dinner table conversation. His name sparks discussions worldwide, garners excitement for some Americans, and elicits concern for many others. This division of enthusiasm carries over onto the University of San Diego campus.

Last week when prominent USD alumni came out in support of Donald Trump many students, teachers, and alumni voiced their wishes for the university to distance themselves from the donors. USD mega-donors Jenny Craig and Douglas Manchester co-chaired a fundraising dinner for Trump on July 13 in Rancho Santa Fe and it incited pushback from over many members of the USD community.

Support of outspoken presidential candidate and Republican nominee Donald Trump by USD alumni has resulted in the circulation of petitions amongst the USD community. (Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

USD donor support of outspoken presidential candidate and Republican nominee Donald Trump has resulted in the circulation of petitions amongst the USD community. (Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore)

Craig’s donations to USD birthed the Jenny Craig Pavilion on the East end of campus, while Manchester funded the Manchester Village Apartments, the Manchester Child Development Center and other campus facilities. Despite their contributions to the university, hundreds of USD community members have signed and circulated a petition written by USD alumni Joseph McKellar requesting action from President Harris and the Board of Trustees.

“Throughout his candidacy, Donald Trump has promoted a rhetoric that contradicts Catholic Social Teaching, including disparaging some of our country’s most vulnerable people,” the petition reads before listing many of Trumps more controversial statements.

“As such, we are writing to request that the President and Board of Trustees immediately publicly distance themselves from Ms. Craig’s and Mr. Manchester’s actions, as evidenced by writing an open letter to Ms. Craig and Mr. Manchester that explicitly expresses: 1) profound concern about their association with Mr. Trump, given their long-standing alliance and history with USD, and 2) a request that they withdraw their support of Mr. Trump’s campaign.”

The petition insists that if the university does not distance itself from the two donors in this way,  that their names be removed from buildings on campus. The primary argument of the petition draws on USD’s Catholic mission as an argument and asserts that supporting Trump is supporting a racist.

USD senior, Brianna Harrington sees the petition as a stand against intolerance.

“I think that it’s a brave move on the part of [some] USD [students and alumni] because those are some huge contributors, but I think that it’s the kind of intrepidness we need in the current political environment,” Harrington said. “I think it’s important for influential voices to make their opinions heard, especially on something this important. It shows that USD does and will not support intolerant people and that’s an idea I can stand by.

The petition now has over 840 supporters but USD Junior Jared Sclar will not be one of them. Sclar, a Hillary Clinton supporter and an intern at the Democratic National Convention, understands the petitions concerns but does not endorse it.

“The donors of the school have a constitutional right to support who they want to support monetarily, and especially under Citizens United they have the unlimited power to do that,” Sclar said.

Sclar stated that he believes taking such actions that the petition requests would be careless.

“That being said, the protesters also have a constitutional right to protest [Craig and Manchester’s support of Donald Trump], but it’s going to come down to the decision of the USD administration whether they want to take that into consideration and actually malign two of the greatest donors to the USD community,” Sclar said. “So while I disagree with the endorsement of Jenny Craig and Douglas Manchester for Donald Trump, I’m firmly opposed to renaming the buildings simply because these people are providing money for me and you and everyone else who goes to USD to pursue our academic goals.”

A counter petition has been started in support of Manchester and Craig’s fundraising for Trump but it has been signed by less than 30 individuals. The USD community turns to the administration for answers as the two petitions circulate online.

USD President, James T. Harris, responded to the petition and the concerns that it raises. Harris affirmed the position of USD as well as the rights of community members.

“Our Democracy by its nature invites a variety of differing viewpoints,” Harris said. “The University of San Diego respects the constitutional right of freedom of expression, which includes an individual’s right to support the political candidate of their choice. USD neither denounces nor disassociates with anyone on the basis of the political candidates they support.

Harris, similar to Sclar recognizes the support that Craig and Manchester have given.

“Mr. Manchester and Mrs. Craig have contributed significantly, not only to the growth and success of the USD community, but also to many other philanthropic causes in San Diego over the years,” Harris said. “We are truly grateful for the time, talent and treasures that they and many others have shared, generously supporting the progress of USD and its students.”

So while some community members see the support of Donald Trump as a blemish on USD’s Catholic mission, others see it as a difference in opinion that is lawfully granted to everyone. Whether any further discussion will ensue because of the petitions is uncertain but for now USD will not distance itself from alumni and donors based on political support.  

By Sarah Brewington, Associate Editor