Higher ed leaders condemn Capitol insurrection, police response

Dive Brief: 

  • Higher education leaders roundly condemned a violent mob incited by President Donald Trump that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, delaying the certification of the 2020 presidential election for hours. 

  • College presidents expressed their horror at the insurrection and reaffirmed their commitment to democracy. Some schools also shared information with students and employees about managing political anxiety and receiving counseling

  • Some college officials called out law enforcement’s response to the violent unrest, which appeared minimal compared to the large shows of force during protests there last year over police brutality and racism. 

Dive Insight: 

College presidents issued a flurry of statements censuring the violent protestors who forced lawmakers to flee from their chambers, with some condemning Trump for his role in sparking the unrest. Hours before the mob attack, Trump held a rally near the White House where he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol, repeated false claims of election fraud and vowed to never concede defeat. 

The president of Dillard University, an HBCU in Louisiana, called out Trump and his ideology. “Trump & Trumpism is a drug,” Walter Kimbrough wrote on Twitter. “Too many Republican elected officials & Fox News pundits were the drug dealers.”

Others condemned law enforcement’s response. Video captured some police officers standing back as the mob breached the building, and they didn’t appear to detain the intruders as they left. 

Law enforcement officials told The Washington Post that the U.S. Capitol Police appeared unprepared for the size of the crowd and to quell a violent attack. Federal authorities said they had anticipated needing only around 350 National Guard members to help local police with protests this week, The Wall Street Journal reported

“How can we explain the passivity of law enforcement towards a throng that breached the Capitol and threatened Congress, much less reconcile it with the aggression previously shown towards peaceful protestors challenging injustice and oppression, many of whom were people of color?” New York University President Andrew Hamilton wrote in a statement Wednesday. 

Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, an HBCU in Texas, expressed similar sentiments on Twitter. 

“It is impossible for me to understand the complete and total failure in security protocols that were on display today and not become angry,” Sorrell wrote. “Angry that our democracy was imperiled. Angry that people who are committing treason were treated better than Black people who simply wanted this country to acknowledge that our lives matter.”

Other corners of higher ed also weighed in. 

In a statement posted on Twitter, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos criticized those who breached the Capitol and said the violent disruptions “must end.” Her incoming replacement, Miguel Cardona, wrote a brief message on Twitter: “Our kids deserve better. History has its eyes on us.”

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