by Bailey Basham
Trevecca officials responded quickly on Wednesday to a couple of social media posts by Trevecca students aimed at immigrant and minority students.
“The recent Facebook post does not reflect the culture of Trevecca. In fact, a concerted effort of inclusion and acceptance is practiced on this campus daily in a Christ-like manner. The name Trevecca means a binding together in love. We will continue to live in that manner through these times of national division,” said Steve Harris, associate provost and dean of students.
The day after Donald Trump was elected president, a student posted a status on Facebook targeted at “illegals.”
As of Thursday afternoon, a screenshot of the original post had been shared by many Trevecca students, liked nearly 200 times and commented on by upwards of 70 students.
University administration urged the students and Trevecca community that the specific post, and any others like it that might surface, are not reflective of the school.
The university released an official statement today that says in part, “Trevecca rejects all statements that devalue people, all of whom are created in the image of God. At Trevecca, we welcome and desire diversity in our student body. We are committed to creating a community in which all people know they are loved, respected and valued.”
Harris said this is the first time in his 33 years as dean of students at Trevecca that a comment like this has been made publicly.
“This is not something we’ve dealt with, especially at this level. We don’t have something that we have steps automatically laid out. What I’ll be doing is listening and trying to learn more about what’s being said. I’ll also decide what the appropriate response will be from the university for the students involved and at the same time (make sure) that we have a safe environment.”
This year, around 37 percent of Trevecca students identified as a race other than Caucasian, making the current student body at Trevecca the most diverse in university history.
Matt Toy, director of marketing, said the university monitors social media.
“We monitor social media pretty closely and have responded to anyone who has posted on our pages. The great thing and most challenging thing about [social media] is anything that is of note generally gets pushed our way so we can see it and take the right action when needed. We saw this pretty fast and we pushed it to the right people immediately,” said Toy. “Our hearts go out to anyone who would feel hurt by these comments because they are not appropriate.”
Dan Boone, university president, wrote on a comment on the student’s post on Facebook
“Our students and employees are deeply offended by this. It does not represent who we are. We have a student who has some choices to make…because actions have consequences. But we are also a people who do not return spite with spite. If we can redeem a person rather than harden them in their prejudice, we have done good. The space between protecting my neighbor and redeeming my neighbor’s enemy is sometimes hard to navigate. We plan to do this face to face with dignity rather than feed the voracious appetite of social media trials,” Boone wrote on the student’s Facebook post.
Prior to the student’s social media post getting attention, Boone sent a letter on Wednesday morning to Trevecca faculty and administrators urging them to help make all students feel safe on campus following the results of the election:
Today is an important day on our campus for long-term culture building. As our diversity has increased significantly, we have students who are deeply frightened over the prospect of their future. You—professors, administrators and resident life directors—are the culture builders. I trust you to assure each troubled student of our commitment to their presence and place at Trevecca and to confront any arrogance, gloating, bullying or unkindness in the firm spirit of Christ.
A few suggestions:
- Eat in the cafeteria today and sit with students.
- Attend the SOMA worship gathering tonight.
- Stop to pray with our minority students and express your support for them.
- Embrace our undocumented students.
Let’s remember what our name means: Trevecca—a binding together in love. May this be made ever more true on this day in a massively divided nation.”
About 100 students, faculty and staff participated in a prayer gathering on Wedensday afternoon, offering prayers in English and Spanish.
“It was a prayer and a mourning time as we brought comfort for the undocumented [students at Trevecca],” said Jacob Bell, associated student body chaplain.
Brodrick Thomas, coordinator of student engagement and diversity, and Shawna Gaines, university chaplain, both posted on social media that they were available to any students feeling the need to talk about the results of the election and the response from the Trevecca community.
“Our focus as Christians is trying to be Christ like and to treat others the way you want to be treated. I still think that’s our whole focus—it wouldn’t have changed no matter who won the election,” Harris said. “That’s what our community is based on. Trevecca’s mission and Trevecca’s focus is still the same. That’s what Shawna has been saying in chapel. The body of Christ is composed of a lot of people, and everyone can’t be like you.”