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Unfair Criticism of Notre Dame’s Response to Capitol Protests

To the Editor:

Questioning the condemnations by the presidents of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Pennsylvania of this week’s physical assault on Congress (“Empty Words?, Jan. 8) because of the former’s celebration last year of the only Notre Dame alumna and law faculty member to be appointed to the Supreme Court, and the coincidence of Donald Trump’s status as one of nearly 300,000 living alumni of the latter’s prestigious university, is a tortured reach unworthy of Inside Higher Education.

While Notre Dame’s Father John Jenkins isn’t one to resort to ad hominem attacks, it may be helpful to recall criticism of Donald Trump’s policy positions and actions as a candidate and president, exemplified by his widely circulated address to Mexican business leaders in July 2016. Father Jenkins said, in part: “The vitriol directed at the Irish and later the Italians, and other waves of immigrants to the United States, sadly is not a thing of the past; certainly not for Mexicans in the United States who have been slandered in extraordinary ways, as has Mexico itself. It is churlish, insulting political theater, for certain. But it is not only that. It suggests that the United States distance itself from Mexico at just the time that our nations are most positively engaged with each other and poised to reap the benefits of robust trade, industrialization and entrepreneurship.”

In January 2017, during President Trump’s first month in office, Father Jenkins said: “The sweeping, indiscriminate and abrupt character of President Trump’s recent Executive Order (barring to the U.S. citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries) halts the work of valued students and colleagues who have already passed a rigorous, post-9/11 review process, are vouched for by the university and have contributed so much to our campuses.”

Later that year, he condemned Trump’s proposal to discontinue Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as “foolish, cruel and un-American.” When the Supreme Court invalidated the Trump action in January last year, Father Jenkins said: “The Supreme Court ruled on technical grounds what we applaud on moral ones. It invalidated the heartless cancellation of the DACA program, which needlessly put at risk thousands who entered the U.S. as minors and who knew America as their only home.”

Suffice it to say, Father Jenkins’ criticisms of President Trump were early, frequent and pointed.

–Paul J. Browne
Vice President & Communications
University of Notre Dame

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