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.