Just mentioning his name got this Bryn Mawr student in big trouble
By Anna V. Gargiulo
If you stepped onto the campus of Bryn Mawr College on the night of September 20, it would have seemed relatively calm and routine. However, on the Facebook site called Bryn Mawr Ride Share Group, anger and chaos was unfolding among students on campus.
“Nobody has the right to an opinion of bigotry. 0 Tolerance for fascists!
“It would be great if you didn’t invoke the honor code to justify your racism…”
“So, you want to feel safer on your way to make the world less safe for everyone else…?’
Words like “ignorant shit” and “toxic white” were used. There were several hundred comments on the Facebook group, created for the innocent purpose of letting students ask for ride shares or anything else related to transportation.
The avalanche of comments were all aimed at one first-year student: 18-year-old Andi Moritz, of Hershey, Pa.
What did Moritz say to set off such a fierce reaction?
She posted that she was a Donald Trump supporter and asked if anyone wanted to share a ride to a Trump canvassing event in nearby Springfield.
She clearly did not expect her posting would draw such outrage from her classmates. In fact, the incident caused her to leave the college two days after the event, even though she had only recently at Bryn Maw as a freshman a month before.
“My dad is a Republican, my mom is a Democrat; I’ve grown up with political conversation to be very normal,” Moritz said during a recent phone interview from her home. “Most of my friends at high school were very liberal; my boyfriend is very liberal.”
Disappointment could be heard in her voice when she remarked how it upset her that people supposedly committed to freedom of speech and liberal ideas did not respect other people’s political beliefs.
“It’s always been very normal to me to be friends with – even get married to – people who don’t agree with you in the political arena,” she said.
What exactly did Moritz post on Facebook on that Tuesday night in September? It read:
“Do you have anything to do this Saturday…? Perhaps you wouldn’t mind campaigning for Trump? I’m headed into Springfield to do just that but I’m carpooling with a guy I don’t know. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to go alone, so would anyone be willing to go with me?”
Instantly, comments to her post started flooding in from Bryn Mawr students. Moritz shared with me the screenshots of the comments she got. Though she did not keep an exact count, there were clearly hundreds.
The post and the comments are no longer on Facebook. Moritz deleted both after it attracted negative attention for hours. They were a mixture of people saying she was a “white supremacist,” “fascist,” and “bigot.” Others tried to ask people to calm down. A few others defended her, saying that: “We shouldn’t be crushing people’s freedom to think how they want to.”
In an interview, Moritz expressed frustration on how, on that night, people were judging her based on her “political beliefs, without bothering to know me or what my stances on things are at all.”
People she knew posted comments defending her; those who were against her had never met her. Even her roommates who were Chinese and Hispanic – two groups Trump has talked about in disparaging ways – stood by her.
“When people started jumping on that very angry bandwagon, I started getting more and more upset,” said Moritz.
At one point, one of her dorm’s peer mentors approached her, but not to offer her support. As Moritz recalls it, the mentor told her where the people commenting against her “were coming from” and said that she had “personally attacked” people on campus by posting on Facebook that she was a Trump supporter.
Peer mentors are Bryn Mawr students who have paid positions of authority in the dorms and are responsible for advising students on personal and academic matters.
As Moritz recalled the conversation: “She was like, ‘I feel attacked by that, you should understand how other people would feel attacked by that because Trump is very against people of color and against LGBT people…so that makes people on campus feel very upset and angry and unsafe.’”
Moritz rejected the idea that she was racist or homophobic. She said that she did not think Trump was against people of color and LGBT people, adding that she was part of a gay-straight alliance in high school.
She also talked of how her parents were childcare workers who took care of boys who came from many different races. “They are brothers to me and one of them is Egyptian, one is Latino, and two are African American,’ Moritz said. “So, it was like…you are saying I hate people who are not white? But, I live with people I care about very much who are not white.”
The night after being bombarded with the Facebook comments, Moritz had a difficult time. She had already been dealing with negative feelings while at college and now she was faced with the fact that it seemed the majority of students on campus despised her.
She called the Suicide Hotline and went to bed late, emailing her teachers that she was not feeling well and would not be in class the next day. That next morning, she went to look for help. She did not find much.
“I had already been going to the health center for counseling, so I went there to talk about this, and my counselor wasn’t not much help really,” Moritz said. “She basically defended the people who had said mean things to me – and that was something I ran into a lot at Bryn Mawr, where the school itself had a strong liberal bias.”
Moritz said she found it ironic that the health center claimed to be a “safe space.”
“It’s not a safe space if you’re a conservative,” she said. She also talked to campus security after her friends had expressed concern about her safety.
Later, her dean, Christina Rose, called her in for a talk. (Each Bryn Mawr student is assigned to one of the seven deans at the school.)
“She asked me how I was doing, that this has been brought to her attention, and if there was anything I’d like to do about it,” Moritz recalled.
She said that though Rose appeared neutral, it was clear to her that “it wasn’t going to be presented that anyone has done anything wrong.”
According to Moritz, Rose suggested that the best way to deal with the situation was to organize an open discussion for those who wanted to talk about their feelings on the issue. She also suggested that Moritz try to talk one-on-one with the people who were upset with her.
Two days later, when she told the dean that she had decided to leave Bryn Mawr, Moritz said that Rose appeared “relieved.”
“She made no effort to try to convince me to stay…she didn’t seem upset about it at all,” was the way Moritz recalled it.
Rose declined to comment on the meetings, citing the policy that contact between a dean and a student must remain confidential.
Moritz remains upset about what this event and its aftermath says about Bryn Mawr and U.S. colleges in general: “Nationwide, there’s a problem of students trying to infringe on other student’s freedom of speech, which happens to both political parties, but I think the way things are right now, the conservatives are bring more attacked.”
She also talked about the negative long-term effects that the school’s culture could have on a student’s professional life.
“Many people at Bryn Mawr are going to leave college, and the real world is going to hit them like a truck.” She gave an example of getting a job where your boss is a conservative. “What are they going to do when their boss is a conservative?” she asked. “Are to yell at their boss? Call their boss a racist?”
The way Moritz sees it students are “sheltered” at Bryn Mawr…”in this bog bubble of people who will echo your opinion. You can throw something out there and…if it’s a liberal opinion, you’ve got a ton of people who jump on and say: ‘Wow, you’re right, I agree with you.’ This is a big problem.”
Moritz sees her case as an example of what happens when a student utters an opinion that strays from that norm.
This article very clearly shows bias against views that are not the author’s and Moritz’s own. It appears that the opening the door for discussion is the right choice in making these gaps disappear – exactly what the Dean suggested. To come outside of the self, and to have these conversations, are vital. It’s also vital to be able to come into a conversation such as this with an open and loving mind – something that did not seem to be present in Moritz’s attitude, towards the school, the students, the administration, and then bleeding into the college experience at large. It appears to me through this article that the moment things did not go her way (and I do agree, no student should attack another for their political inclinations on a ride share group) she stopped seeing “Bryn Mawr students” or “the liberal college people” as people at all, but identifying them as a clear “other”.
I’d also like to put forward that while “the norm” at colleges may be liberal, it isn’t that way everywhere in the USA. College is a place to develop your own opinions and beliefs, where you can discuss them, and tough out those hard conversations. A “safe space” is a space that offers discussion. What happened on facebook wasn’t fair when people attacked Moritz, but again, the Dean’s idea to communicate was spot on. I’m sad that Moritz did not feel supported by her HA, though it felt that the HA tried to come from a place of understanding in trying to communicate how the other side felt….
There are so many things to address within this article, but I think first and foremost is: why was the peer mentor in question not given a chance to give a statement or quote? What was the reason for not reaching out to them? This seems like a pretty egregious example of journalistic irresponsibility, because all elements within the article are fulfilling a predetermined narrative: Bryn Mawr students and staff and those meant to assist students are clearly there as a monolithic barrier to those with opposing views. They “attack” students (when, again, that is Andi’s perception and not the actual words of the peer mentor themselves) and deans remain unsympathetic or unhelpful (again, an idea that is promoted by Andi’s perception and maintained with the dean’s inability to disclose any countering perspectives/information on the interaction). Again, this seems, at the very core, like an irresponsibly researched article.
Thanks for your note. The reporter did not name the peer mentor or counselor to protect their privacy. She did name the dean and called the dean for a comment.
Subsequently, the peer mentor posted an entry on Facebook telling her version of the event, which, with one variation, basically confirmed Ms. Moritz’s version of that meeting.
I just want to let any “progressive” students at Bryn Mawr know the following: YOUR BEHAVIOR IS DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR TRUMP’S WIN. If you approve of this type of harassment, if you think labeling people “racists” without proof is a good thing, if you have no tolerance for views other than your own, YOU got Trump elected.
I am a woman, in my 40s, who used to be a lifelong liberal Democrat, and an active feminist, and I voted for Trump in large part because is going on at college campuses right now scares the living daylights out of me.
You “progressives” are acting like Nazis. YOU are the fascists you claim to be against.
This is why Trump won. Because people are sick of you and scared of you. Not “brown” people. Not Mexican immigrants. We are scared of predominantly white college-age left-wing “Social Justice Warriors” acting like Nazis.
So think about that the next time you act like a bunch of crazy cult members.
This is clear discrimination and harassment. The University has the responsibility to protect students from abuse, including discrimination. The University should have and still should make clear it tolerates NO BULLYING and NO DISCRIMINATION and that any student who does either will face punishment.
Moritz should go through University policies and student handbooks to find language that protects her as well as learn federal discrimination laws. She should contact the EEOC and file a charge of discrimination against the University and contact the organization FIRE, which defends freedom of speech on campuses:
Shame on Bryn Mawr!
This is not right, you can’t demand safe spaces for liberals and then bully conservatives. Who has taught you this is OK? If it’s the school ask for your money back. Democrats are becoming everything they claim they hate.
As an alumna (1980s), I find this story deeply troubling. I went to BMC at a time when it was possible to diverge from school norms without being attacked. Perhaps we took the idea of sisterhood more seriously then. Sisters may disagree, but ideally they do so respectfully. An avalanche of hostile and abusive comments directed against one student on social media sounds like cyberbullying to me, and I am saddened to learn that there are Mawrtyrs (not all, I realize) who consider this behavior acceptable. I hope that the administration will consider seeking to foster a more inclusive campus climate. Perhaps bringing in as speakers some alumnae who have achieved notable things as Republicans would be valuable.
Bryn Mawr and lots of colleges are doing their own version of Communist China’s Red Guard. The evil will only get worse.
What a sad statement about the culture Bryn Mawr has developed. The blame is most likely shared between extremely close minded faculty and professors. I find it hard to believe just how out of touch this post secondary educational institution has become from reality.
Critical thinking used to be promoted, but now apparently this school has decided closed minds are better.
My daughter is graduating next May. Pretty sure she hasn’t applied to Bryn Mawr, but this is for sure a red flag. I won’t be sending her to such an intolerant hate-filled place under any circumstances. “Safe spaces”, my rear end.
Unbelievably the only comments, thus far, continue the assault on this innocent student by widening the attack to include the author of this fair & balanced piece.
The USA did indeed tilt towards Fascism (and its ugly sister Maoism) when it was decided that no person could support Trump without fear of violent reprisals from a bigoted left.
Shame on these students. Shame on the cowardly annonmous commentators.
The world (I’m in London, UK) looks down on you.
A full inquiry will be made on the situation and charges will be brought against the school for allowing such harassment if the girls statements are true.
Might makes right. That is the meaning of democracy. Those of us holding happy, proper majority views should not have to endure the emotional pain of hearing views with which we disagree, or even letting us know that such views exist. Is our right to silence the unpleasant as long as we outnumber those we disagree with. That’s what democracy means.
As a member of a family that has supported Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges for more than a century, I can only say that I am ashamed of the narrow-minded and bigoted institutions they appear to have become.
Apparently freedom of expression is conditional at Bryn Mawr – glad my daughters had the good sense to go elsewhere.