Last fall, Regent University announced it would begin a series of Presidential Candidate Forums as a part of its Executive Leadership Series in which all presidential candidates, Republican and Democrat, would be invited to Regent’s campus so that students and the surrounding public could hear their pitch for the presidency. After announcing last month that Republican candidate Donald Trump would follow visits by Governors Jeb Bush and John Kasich, it was revealed that Trump’s forum would take place on Wednesday, February 24 at noon– the time when university-wide chapel usually takes place.
According to the Regent University campus calendar, chapel has been removed from the weekly schedule and a gospel fest will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening in its place. Normally, no events or classes take place during this time so that students, faculty, and staff member may attend chapel as a time to worship together. Trump’s forum is the only one that has caused chapel to be canceled.
When Jeb Bush kicked off the series last October, his event was held on a Friday afternoon during Fall break when the majority of students were not on campus. Similarly, Gov. Kasich’s forum was held on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the middle of the afternoon. One student said she didn’t even know about Kasich’s visit to the school until after it had already taken place. With Trump’s visit, it appears that the school is changing tides in hopes for higher attendance. As of today, tickets are no longer being sold (general public tickets cost $10 and student tickets cost $5– this has remained the same for each forum), but a live simulcast of the event will be held on Regent’s website.
An email sent to students Monday evening revealed that all classes in the Communication Building (where all Presidential Candidate Forum events are held) would be relocated to other classrooms on campus both for Trump’s event on Wednesday, and also for Cruz and Carson who will be coming to campus shortly after Trump. Chapel was not canceled and classes were not moved when Bush and Kasich participated in the series last semester.
Shortly after Trump’s visit to Regent was announced in early January, students began voicing their conflicting opinions surrounding his visit to the school. In an article on Red Alert Politics by Regent University Senior Rebekah Swieringa, various students are quoted voicing concerns about the Trump event at the school which is known for being a conservative Christian college. Several students who wished to remain anonymous shared their opinion with Red Millennial about the event. One young woman said she was surprised that the school would host a candidate whose ideology does not align with the majority of students on a day when they would be hosting gospel fest, considering racist remarks that Trump has made in the past. Another said, “Why are we cancelling chapel and moving classes for a racist sexist hypocritical ‘Christian’ to visit our school?”
In recent weeks, Trump has been the recipient of lots of backlash from a variety of religious figures despite having obtained the endorsement of Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell, Jr, which dismayed many of the schools students and alumni. Just last week, Pope Francis addressed the topic of Trump’s Christianity, saying, “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he said things like that.” In response, Trump’s campaign released the following press release:
In addition to prominent religious figures calling out Mr. Trump, media tycoon National Review recently released a scathing piece titled “Against Trump” in collaboration with big time media figures such as Glenn Beck, Thomas Sowell, and Dana Loesch, among others. The article called for Conservatives to wake up and stop falling for Trump’s presidential Ponzi scheme.
Without-a-doubt, Pat Robertson, Regent University’s founder and the moderator of Wednesday’s forum, will ask Trump about his faith. It’ll be interesting to see if he makes another flub like he did when he spoke at Liberty University and quoted “Two Corinthians” in an attempt to connect with the deeply religious student body. A recent graduate of Regent University sarcastically suggested that the school should make the day of Trump’s forum a paid holiday for all non-white staff members. It goes without saying that Trump’s forum will definitely make headlines.