Students at the University of Chicago aren’t happy that one of Donald Trump’s top advisers is coming to address the school’s Institute of Politics, but the nonpartisan IOP says students need to study the Trump phenomenon to understand it.
Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s chief strategist during the election—and, now, the incoming White House press secretary—will speak at the school in January, to give students a look inside Trump’s campaign operations.
But merely inviting Spicer caused UChicago students to express deep disgust at the thought of a Trump colleague on campus. One fourth-year student accused UChicago of normalizing the Trump administration and called on students to protest Spicer during his speech.
“I don’t think that we need to treat this person like a normal press secretary coming in to talk about life on the job, and I think it is insidious that [David] Axelrod called him a friend and is tacitly normalizing the administration by having him in for a discussion.” he told the Chicago Maroon. “It turns out that the IOP intends to treat this administration like a normal one and I don’t think students should treat this as business as usual.”
The same student called on UChicago, just a few weeks ago, to shut down the Institute on Politics, lest students be forced to interact with the “coterie of madmen” that are due to invade the hallowed halls of power come 2017.
Fortunately for Spicer, it looks like the IOP and its staff—including founder Axelrod—will welcome him with open arms, even if students are unable to process the concept of embracing an opposing viewpoint.
Congratulations to my friend @seanspicer on his appointment as WH press secy. A thoroughgoing pro-as he will need to be!
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) December 22, 2016
The IOP says it is non-partisan and that it’s invitation to Spicer does not constitute an endorsement of either Trump’s views or how the campaign has treated the press. Instead, it says, Spicer’s perspective will be one of many, as the school holds several events designed to examine the Trump phenomenon.
“With the pending inauguration of President-elect Trump, it’s vitally important to understand how his administration will approach the presidency and the key issues affecting our nation during the next four years,” IOP executive director Steve Edwards said in a statement to media. “Our event with Sean Spicer is the first in a series of in-depth conversations we’ll be hosting during winter quarter that seek to examine the impact of a Trump presidency from a variety of issues and perspectives.”
He carefully added, “The IOP does not endorse points of view, but is dedicated to providing a forum for respectful dialogue, where different points of view can be heard and tested.”.
Future guests will include CNN commentators Van Jones and S.E. Cupp, as well as Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance. The school has already held an event with Clinton campaign staff. And Spicer’s appearance will be a one-on-one interview with Axelrod, with a question and answer period for students.
UChicago made headlines back in September after announcing that its administration would not condone the use of “trigger warnings” or the development of “safe spaces” designed to protect students from the exchange of uncomfortable ideas.