Not historically known for campus unrest, Trinity College finds itself thrust in the middle of an ideological clash over race that has brought unwanted national attention to the Hartford institution as it tries to move beyond its preppy label.
The controversy revolves around a pair of professors — one for tweeting that “whiteness is terrorism” and the other for his central role in an emerging alt-right group that’s been accused of giving a platform to white supremacists and to former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka, whose daughter is a Trinity senior.
It comes as the college’s administration has sought to advance diversity and inclusiveness at the liberal arts school of 2,300 students, where a student-led affiliate of the Churchill Institute is seeking recognition as a campus organization. Members of the student Senate will vote on the request to create a Churchill Club Sunday.
Joanne Berger-Sweeney, the school’s president, addressed the political unrest in a campus-wide letter Wednesday and said Trinity College’s foundation is built on academic freedom and freedom of expression.
“Where else should these debates occur, if not here?” Berger-Sweeney wrote. “These debates help us define our differences and find our common ground, and while they may not always end in a agreement, they advance our understanding of each other.”
Berger-Sweeney was not available for an interview, but a school spokeswoman said “we respect [the Student Government Association’s] process and the considerable pressure they are under with regard to this issue, and therefore it would be inappropriate for anyone in the administration to comment before the vote.”
The 3-year-old Churchill Institute is based in Hartford and led by Gregory B. Smith, a political science professor who has been criticized for referring to on-campus cultural houses for African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Muslim and Jewish students as “tribal enclaves.”
At the same time, longtime sociology professor Johnny Eric Williams…