A podcast hosted by Grace Morton ’23, an opinion piece from Max Mondress ’23, and photo essay from Max Cox ’23
Editor’s note: All opinions pieces published in the Clerk represent only the views and ideas of the authors. While this piece was written and recorded by Clerk staff, it represents only their perspectives and should not be taken to infer the stance of the Clerk as an institution.
Students began to find the fliers late Saturday, February 8, 2020, on the walls of residential halls, strewn around the campus center, and pinned to the door of the Ira De A. Reid House. Primarily a black and white printout of a Trump 2020 flag, the page was an invitation to an “inclusive discussion” in Stokes 201 at 11 PM the following Monday. Just as soon as they were put up, students tore them down, but the impact had been made.
The flier includes several rhetorical questions: the first asking students if they are “afraid to voice [their] opinion,” echoing larger conversations around free speech on campus; the second asking if students believe in “a free and fair society;” and the final question asking students if they understand the “perils of socialism,” invoking reference to increasing socialist ideology from the Democratic party, and tying socialism to the “killing [of] 60 million people throughout history.”
These questions, and the fliers in general, clearly have a political message tied to them. The message got lots of students asking questions of their own. Who put out their fliers? What was the purpose of the event? Was the event even real? If the flier wanted to get people talking, then it certainly worked.
With the promise of “burgers, wings, and all your American favorites,” the flier invites students to “come learn why America is the freest most prosperous nation ever created.” All that remained was to see if any students would actually come. And they did. 17 students, all of whom identified as liberal, found themselves in the hallway outside 201 waiting for the event to start.
The entrance to 201, which was not reserved prior to the event on EMS, was locked. A single trash bag was lodged in the door-jamb. The hosts of the event never came, confirming what many students had suspected: the invitation was never meant seriously. Some jokes were made at the hosts’ expense once it was clear they were not going to come, but the hallway emptied pretty quickly after that.
The following pieces—a podcast, a reflection piece, and a satirical photo essay—were produced by the three contributors sent by The Clerk to cover the event.
Making Stokes Great Again?: a Podcast from Grace Morton ’23.
“So here’s our process instead, why we’re telling the story the way that we are. It’s an attempt to balance tonight’s comedy with the horror that lies just beneath – the justified fear of hurtful policies and rhetoric with the reality of the community who will show up to oppose those ideas, even at 11:00 PM on a Monday. And maybe it’s an invitation to a more genuine discourse in the future, one that is approached with good intentions”Quote by Grace Morton, the host of The Consensus podcast.
Framing the Farce: an Opinion from Max Mondress ’23
I didn’t believe the event would actually happen. Haverford’s first Trump rally just feels like a zero-probability event to me. This isn’t to say there aren’t Trump supporters on campus (there certainly are), I just didn’t believe the flier was made in good faith.
The three of us covering the story arrived 30 minutes early to an empty hallway, prepared to document the meeting. Walking away an hour later, the event felt significant, even though it didn’t technically happen. It rests at the intersection of several big issues for students: free speech, the upcoming election, and both rhetoric and policy by President Trump which actively targets marginalized groups on campus. Acknowledging the gravity of the issues they invoke, these fliers cannot be written off as an insignificant prank.
There is a telling and unsettling irony in all of this. The first question in the flier asks students if they feel safe expressing support for Trump. This question alludes to a broader conversation on campus: freedom of expression.
Supposedly Trump supporters don’t feel comfortable sharing their beliefs, but they created an event specifically to “troll the libs,” as one attendee put it. This hardly feels like the discourse they claim to covet. They planned an event and seventeen people came to listen and engage with them. They were the ones who did not participate.
The seventeen of us that gathered made jokes about the event and its hosts. Perhaps students would not have listened. Many students are already paying attention. In spite of these jokes, Trump is no joking matter on campus. Students have already considered Trump’s views and, for many, this is the very reason the pamphlet was so upsetting.
Trump’s time in the public eye has been marked by a series of controversies. His frequent demagoguery frequently sets its sights on traditionally marginalized groups on campus. Lots of students face a hostile force in the White House, and seeing such blatant support was triggering. Seeing Trump posters in living spaces on campus felt like a threat.
Perhaps this was the purpose. Given the hosts’ absence, the posters begin to look a bit sinister. This is especially dour in consideration of the posting at Ira De A. Reid House, home of the Black Cultural Center. This alleged call for discourse starts to look like a bad faith action taken specifically to target marginalized groups on campus.
On a campus with such a unique proclivity towards discourse, this raises some important questions about how we handle bad acts. How do we, as a community, respond to discourse intended not as a feature of intellectual inquiry, but as an attack on our peers? The full extent of student response remains to be seen. Although the perpetrators are still unconfirmed, people have reportedly been taken to honor trial over less.
The 2020 election is heating up, with the Democratic primary results beginning to roll in last week, at the beginning of what is sure to be a long and tense election year. The poster’s reference to the dangers of socialism is likely in response to the increasing popularity of Bernie Sanders on campus and within the Democratic Party as a whole. This attempt to engage with election rhetoric, thought ultimately unfulfilled, marks a departure for political dialogue on campus; the past few months have been dominated by talk of the Democratic primary, and now students are turning to the general election.
If this is the discourse the Trump camp has in store for the coming year, it is hardly a good sign for what is to come. But if a Haverford Trump rally is seventeen liberals at a late-night meeting in a hallway cracking jokes, I look forward to the second one.
Artist’s Rendition: a Photo Essay from Max Cox ’23
The ephemeral and intangible event planner materializes just long enough to unlock the door and kick off the event before evaporating back into the HaverSphere. Nobody knows who or what this disembodied conservative energy is, but all in attendance were thankful for its meaningful contributions to the community.
Attendees search for the secluded Stokes 201, impatiently banging on doors and rattling windows with enough partisan furor to rival Mitch McConnell’s jarringly yet unsurprisingly toothless grin.
Participants meander the lively halls of Stokes during a break in the discussion. The marathon debate was sustained with minimal interruptions from 11 PM to 5:36 AM. This is the lengthiest discourse in Haverford history, barely eeking out the previous record of six hours and 10 minutes spent hashing out whether ‘Munchy Crunchy’ should ‘grind up your lunch’ or ‘give the Bourgeois a punchy.’ Participants chow down on all their “American favorites,” savoring the juicy gristle of liberty and independence. Vegan options were not provided at the event; however, this fact was rendered irrelevant by the second hour of dialogue, when the ritual invocation of Ben Shapiro’s name was used to cure the herbivores.
In this satirical photo essay, I hoped to capture the absurdity surrounding both the real and imagined events that took place on February 10. On one hand, there is the cinematically unrealistic hyper-Americana of the advertised function, somehow squaring ‘inclusivity’ with overt partisanship and divisive rhetoric. On the other, there is the mundane leftism of the actual occurrence, featuring 17 ‘libs’ making sarcastic comments about how hard we just got ‘owned.’
Undoubtedly, this is a contentious issue with real consequences that must be taken seriously; however, it is also important to acknowledge the sheer absurdity of it all, certainly to cope with the troubling nature of these actions, but also to understand the tactics used by whoever instigated this whole situation. They wanted to create some sort of ludicrous confusion, but what they got was some sort of campy resignation. Yes, 17 of us showed up to Stokes at 11 PM, but none of us really cared about the lack of a function. We stuck around for a bit, enjoyed the company, and went our separate ways. This camaraderie in the nonsensical gives me a certain kind of hope, a hope that our community values and level heads are stronger than any bad actors trying to disrupt the trust within our institution. Maybe my optimism is naive, but it’s also better than any alternative emotions that I’ve come up with, so I think I’ll stick to it.