Christian university alumni are returning their diplomas — and it’s all because of Trump

Christian university alumni are returning their diplomas — and it’s all because of Trump
Liberty University alumni are returning their diplomas in protest of the university's president standing in solidarity with Donald Trump. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

One of the nation’s leading Christian university’s is facing major backlash because the school’s president has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump. Liberty University alumni are sending back their diplomas in protest of president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support of Trump’s policies, NPR reported.

The tipping point

Alumni taking part in the movement began organizing this week after Trump’s remarks in Charlottesville, Virginia, that some feel failed to condemn white supremacy groups.

“I’m sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists,” Chris Gaumer, a former Student Government Association president and 2006 graduate, told NPR. “And in defending the president’s comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit.”

Falwell applauded Trump’s Twitter condemnation of hate groups.

The problem, alumni say, is that it’s not enough.

This isn’t the first time Falwell was closely tied to Trump. He invited Trump to speak at Liberty University’s commencement ceremony this past spring. The president was the first speaker Falwell selected during his tenure as the university’s president, NPR reported.

Their explanation

The group of alumni is preparing to send a letter to the university, explaining their reason for returning the diplomas:

While this state of affairs has been in place for many months, the Chancellor’s recent comments on the attack upon our neighbors in Charlottesville have brought our outrage and our sorrow to a boiling point. During the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-Nazis perpetrated brutal violence against anti-racist protesters, murdering one woman and injuring many. Instead of condemning racist and white nationalist ideologies, Mr. Trump provided equivocal and contradictory comments. The Chancellor then characterized Mr. Trump’s remarks, which included the claim that some of the persons marching as white nationalists and white supremacists at the rally were ‘very fine people,’ as ‘bold’ and ‘truthful.’ This is incompatible with Liberty University’s stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness.

Alumni who can’t find their degrees are being asked to write individual letters to submit or sign onto the group’s letter to the university.

The concern

Some alumni are now embarrassed by the university’s actions and say that it’s negatively impacting their career.

“I was to the point where I didn’t even want to include my alma mater on my resume when I was applying for jobs, just because I think that can be so loaded,” 2002 alumna Rebekah Tilley said. “There’s such a strong affiliation now between Liberty University and President Trump that you know that reflects badly on all alumni.”

 

The desired outcome

“We’re asking that Liberty University return to its stated values and accept that the pursuit of power is leading it into some dark places, and really repudiate that,” 2007 alumna Georgia Hamann and letter co-author said. “The word in Baptist and evangelical circles is ‘repent.’… You know, truly a turning away from wrong conduct.”

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