As the Trump administration continues to grapple with fallout from the violence in Charlottesville, a small but growing number of Liberty University students are protesting the president by returning their diplomas.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., the president of the Lynchburg, Va.-based Evangelical school, has been one of the president's most ardent supporters since the campaign, so perhaps it's no surprise that not much has changed since. While many on the right denounced Trump's statements on Charlottesville as not being a strong enough condemnation of white supremacists groups, Falwell stood by the president in a tweet posted on August 16.
Falwell then followed up with another tweet in support of the president's further statements, in which Trump denounced the racist groups in attendance at the "Unite the Right" rally.
In response, a small coalition of former Liberty University students are protesting Falwell's continued support of Trump by returning their diplomas.
Chris Gaumer, a former Student Government Association president and 2006 graduate, told NPR that this decision was simple.
"I'm sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists," Gaumer said. "And in defending the president's comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit."
So far, more than 260 people have joined the Facebook group urging other alumni to return their diplomas to Falwell's office by a Sept. 5 due date. Organizers have also written letters to Falwell's office as well as to the Board of Trustees, calling for him to be removed, writing:
"While this state of affairs has been in place for many months, the Chancellor's recent comments on the attack upon our neighbors in Charlottesville have brought our outrage and our sorrow to a boiling point. During the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-Nazis perpetrated brutal violence against anti-racist protesters, murdering one woman and injuring many. Instead of condemning racist and white nationalist ideologies, Mr. Trump provided equivocal and contradictory comments. The Chancellor then characterized Mr. Trump's remarks, which included the claim that some of the persons marching as white nationalists and white supremacists at the rally were 'very fine people,' as 'bold' and 'truthful.' This is incompatible with Liberty University's stated values, and incompatible with a Christian witness."
Although the school voted overwhelmingly for Trump, a minority of students have expressed concern for their university president's unwavering support for Trump for quite a while. In October, the group Liberty United Against Trump came out against Trump after a video surfaced showing then-candidate Trump making vulgar comments about women.