Controversy Over P.L. Nazarene University Alum Speaker at GOP Convention Continues to Simmer

by on September 1, 2020 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

The controversy over Point Loma Nazarene alum Natalie Harper’s speech at the GOP convention last week continues to simmer. Over 500 PLNU alumni signed a statement denouncing Harp’s speech, saying ‘she didn’t speak for me.’ Now The Point, PLNU’s online student news platform has posted two statements, one that says, “Natalie Harp Should Be Celebrated,” by Christian Aguayo, and another that states, “Natalie Harp Doesn’t Speak for Us, Either“, by Maggie Valentine. We repost both of them here:

Natalie Harp Should Be Celebrated

Point Loma Nazarene University is a liberal arts college. In several of my freshman year courses, we discussed what it means to get a liberal arts education. Central to a liberal arts education are important ideas that came out of the Enlightenment, including critical thinking and tolerance. These same ideas form the backbone of western thought and civilization.

The petition being passed around by our alumni titled “Natalie Harp Does Not Speak for Us” makes me wonder if the alumni who signed this petition slept through or were not paying attention during class conversations about liberal education.

First, I’d like to address the title of the petition: “Natalie Harp Does Not Speak for Us.” At no point during her Republican National Convention speech does Harp mention PLNU. I was not even aware Harp was a PLNU alumna until I saw the petition in discussion. The only people making the connection between Natalie Harp, PLNU and the Trump campaign are the creators of this petition.

Secondly, I’m going to discuss the content of the petition. I’m glad that once students graduate, they take a stand in politics and critically evaluate policy coming out of presidential administrations and vocalize their agreements and disagreements. This petition goes beyond vocalizing disagreement over politics and policy. It argues in bad faith, using character attacks by implicitly and explicitly stating that Harp has contributed to the deaths of marginalized groups by working on the Trump campaign.

This petition and the conversation surrounding it is a microcosm of a general breakdown of discourse in the United States. The creators of this petition, and presumably many of those who signed it, don’t just believe they have a simple policy disagreement with Harp. It’s more than that; they drastically turn up the rhetoric and levy charges of racism and xenophobia. Once rhetoric is turned up to this degree, it’s hard to turn back down. The chance of reasonable discussion and debate becomes extinguished.

I believe the creators of this petition and some of those who signed it have such a caustic dislike for this administration that they cannot stomach the idea of once sharing a campus with someone who now works on the Trump campaign.

The current degree of our civil discourse and inability to tolerate those with different opinions is dangerous for college education and our country. As I mentioned previously, we pursue a liberal education to become well-rounded individuals. We learn about Enlightenment thinkers such as Kant and Locke, whose ideas about critical thinking, tolerance and freedom form the backbone of our country and western civilization. We discuss and debate with those we disagree with in hopes of reaching a solution. If we cannot peacefully live and interact with those we disagree with, our republic is in danger.

Finally, I’d like to add it is incredible that a graduate of PLNU holds a leadership position in a presidential campaign. As a political science major, I dream of doing that one day. I would say and think the same thing if the person in discussion held a leadership position on the Joe Biden presidential campaign. It is excellent to see PLNU graduates thriving in their careers. Harp’s success ought to be celebrated, not scorned.

By: Christian Aguayo

And here’s:

Natalie Harp Doesn’t Speak for Us, Either

Last week, PLNU alumna Natalie Harp spoke at the Republican National Convention with a speech many news outlets, including the Washington Post and New York Times, found to include exaggerated claims. In the wake of this address, a petition circulated among PLNU alumni stating that “Natalie Harp does not speak for us,” which now has more than 500 signatures. As the President of the Point Loma College Democrats, and on behalf of our executive board, I wholeheartedly support this petition, but think it should be extended to include current PLNU students as well.

As students at a liberal arts college, we take courses designed to challenge and expand our world view, and Harp’s speech reflects poorly on the university. Harp’s speech, like many at the convention, relied heavily on American exceptionalism that painted a picture of an America only a small percentage of the population actually has access to. We are in the midst of a global pandemic which, due to the President’s failure to act, has a death toll of more than 181,000 (as of August 29). Our black and brown siblings are continuously being subjected to racial violence and discrimination at the hands of police—with law enforcement killing 751 people just this year (mappingpoliceviolence.org), and most recently, a 17-year-old terrorist killing two innocent civilians in Kenosha, Wisconsin while police sat by and watched. This is the reality we face and Harp’s speech completely ignores this.

PLNU seeks to “shape critical, thoughtful, and engaged individuals who contribute to every realm of human industry for the betterment of their communities and world.” If we, as students, faculty and alumni, are truly going to live out the PLNU mission, we must begin with acknowledging the injustices and oppression that our siblings around the country face, and work to dismantle the systems that perpetuate them. Ms. Harp’s speech failed to live up to the values of PLNU, and she does not speak for the university community. May her speech and this petition be a reminder to us that we have work to do in addressing these inequalities and injustices. The easiest way to begin to address these issues is simple: vote on November 3 to uphold our democracy and reject an administration that has allowed this American exceptionalism and flawed worldview to be perpetuated.

Written By: Maggie Valentine

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Avatar Chris September 1, 2020 at 12:59 pm

Interesting piece. I have to admit I am pretty ignorant about PLNU. Other than a vague awareness that it’s a “Christian” college of some sort, I just never gave it much thought and assumed it was a conservative school so I’m a bit surprised. I’ve lived in San Diego since 1986 (other than La Mesa from 5 to 7 years of age) and somehow I don’t think I’ve met one person who went there. So I guess to say I am surprised about all the controversy Ms. Harp has caused. I am no Republican and no Trump supporter but if Ms. Harp didn’t make any mention of the fact she went to PLNU then I’m not sure what the petition is trying to achieve. I kind of get the impression these students are more about being part of a cause then they are about actually achieving their goal.

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