As President Donald Trump gave a speech at a historically Black college last week, most students were reportedly asked not to leave their dorms.
Now Benedict College is grappling with outrage from students, faculty and staff over the president’s recent visit.
Trump, 73, delivered a speech at the Columbia campus on Friday afternoon to a roomful of political allies and just seven students, Time magazine reported. White House officials hand-selected the students, inviting 10 in all.
The POTUS, who is facing an impeachment inquiry, was there to discuss criminal justice reform as part of the bipartisan Second Step Presidential Justice Forum. Once he arrived to campus, school officials told students to remain in their dorm rooms for the duration of the visit, and later handed out snacks during what students have described as a “lockdown.”
Sophomore Nia Byas, 20, said they were asked to stay put from 12 to 4 p.m.
In a statement, Benedict spokeswoman Kymm Hunter said that remanding students to their dorms was part of a safety plan the college had created in tandem with the Secret Service, according to The State newspaper. She said that classes also were canceled.
“The campus was closed and streets surrounding the campus were shut down to all vehicle traffic from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m,” Hunter said. “Faculty, staff, and students who were on campus were asked to stay inside, but if anyone needed to go to work or to another building, it was not problem.”
The POTUS’ address at the HBCU comes less than a week after he sparked controversy by comparing the impeachment probe against him to a political “lynching.”
Kevin Reese, a senior at Benedict College, was among those who voiced frustration that students were largely kept out of Trump’s speech. Reese is neither a supporter or critic of the reality star-turned-politician, but said the speech was something he would’ve liked to experience.
“Sure, I would love to go to the event,” he told The State. “Just to hear a sitting president, I wouldn’t want to miss that.”
Other students weren’t as enthused, however, and participated in protests against Trump’s presence on campus. Byas was among the demonstrators.
“I protested for all historically black institutions,” she told Time. “My goal was to make my voice be heard that I don’t want Donald Trump visiting any historically black colleges, especially my campus.”
Protesters gathered outside the auditorium Friday as the president spoke.
Protesters gather outside Benedict College ahead of President Trump's planned speech. pic.twitter.com/BBNDwCg9W9— The Hill (@thehill) October 25, 2019
Benedict sophomore Nia Byas said she thought it is "inappropriate" for Trump to visit a historically black college. "I feel like he is just here to antagonize us." pic.twitter.com/QjgpVw0TRO— Emily Bohatch (@emilybohatch) October 25, 2019
Several critics also took to social media to voice their anger over it all.
“As a former employee of Benedict College, I think Donald Trump being allowed on that campus after the hateful rhetoric he’s spewed for years is an administrative failure,” one Twitter user wrote. “HBCUS are our sanctuaries from hate. You don’t invite the Klan to dinner!”
Economist and author Julianne Malveaux didn’t mince words in her rebuke of the president, who she argued was using the historically Black institution as a “prop” to obscure his own racism.
“Now, I’ll say that, having been a college president myself, college presidents [are] always stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Malveaux said in a recent appearance on “AM Joy.” “It’d be hard to say, no, the president of the United States cannot come to my campus, but the campus did not invite him. This organization invited him. They first leased the college or said, can we have this presidential thing on criminal justice on your campus, and later, after the fact, they brought 45 on.
“He has used black people consistently as props,” she continued. “He has used HBCUs as props. Remember two years ago, when he had about 70 present in the Oval Office. It was a horrible picture.”
Trump previously has been accused of having Black students barred from attending his political events. In March 2016, when then-candidate Trump came to the campus of Valdosta State University in South Georgia for a rally, dozens of Black students from the school, which is roughly 34 percent African-American, were ejected from the rally before Trump took the stage, apparently targeted solely because of their race.
For her part, Malveaux also chided Benedict College for “[allowing] itself to be used as a backdrop.”
Trump “has constantly talked about what he has done, but there was a piece of legislation that provided permanent extension of HBCU funds, it got through the House and he did not use his influence to get it through the Senate, so it died. So, he basically just tells lies, big lies, and big, big lies,” she concluded.
Benedict College didn’t return requests for comment.