Politics & Government

Some ECU students resent Trump rally; campus officials clarify they didn’t invite him

President Donald Trump is holding a rally at East Carolina University this month, but the school is making it clear it didn’t invite him.

“ECU is not hosting this event, serving as a sponsor or endorsing this specific candidate in any way,” ECU said in a statement Wednesday. “We are simply renting the facilities to the Donald J. Trump Campaign in accordance with the ECU Use of University Property Regulation.”

The Keep America Great rally is scheduled for July 17 on campus in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, the same day Congress is expected to hear testimony from former special counsel Robert Mueller about his Trump campaign investigation.

When the news of the rally was announced by the Trump campaign Tuesday night, some ECU students and fans took to social media to express their concerns and resentment towards the decision.

One student tweeted she is going to take her “tuition dollars elsewhere” because Trump is coming. A recent alumna said she’s “Never been so disappointed.” Another student tweeted, “Trump coming to ECU is my sign to LEAVE.”

“I don’t think the university should welcome Trump to use its facilities when the university is home to thousands of students who feel oppressed by Trump and his supporters,” Abbey Friday, a third-year student at ECU, said in a Twitter message to The News & Observer.

Not all students are angry. The ECU College Republicans, a student group on campus, promoted tickets to the rally on Twitter.

ECU spokeswoman Jeannine Manning Hutson said she has seen the Twitter traffic, but it’s not more than she expected.

“People have strong feelings” about President Trump either way, she said.

Hutson said the statement was released Wednesday to clarify that designated university facilities are available for rent, and that the decision demonstrates ECU’s commitment to protecting freedom of expression through the First Amendment. Any non-profit or for-profit organization, including presidential candidates, can request to rent space on campus.

This request went through athletics and the chancellor’s office, and then a contract was settled on through the university’s counsel.

The rate for renting the venue is $10,000 per day for a for-profit organization or an event that sells tickets. The total cost for the Trump Campaign, which is renting Minges Coliseum for three days for security reasons, is $13,500. There could also be additional costs for operational support.

ECU campus police have not met with the Secret Service about additional campus security, Hutson said. Local law enforcement will fill in where they’re needed, she said.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The arena has a capacity of 8,000, according to university’s website.

Registered participants are allowed two tickets each. ECU is not distributing tickets for the rally. That’s handled by the Trump Campaign.

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