Mount Holyoke College announced on Wednesday that its newly selected campus police chief would be placed on administrative leave after he received backlash for liking some of Donald Trump’s and the National Rifle Association’s tweets.
The Daily Wire’s Kassy Dillon reports that Daniel Hect had been appointed to be the head of Mount Holyoke and Smith College’s shared campus police departments, news which he joyfully shared on Twitter.
“I am excited to announce I have accepted the position of Chief of Police at Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, two of the most prestigious all women’s institutions in the nation,” he tweeted.
That’s when the trouble started. Students combed through Hect’s Twitter account and found that he had previously liked tweets from both Trump’s and the NRA’s accounts — such as a tweet from the NRA wishing followers a Merry Christmas and tweets from Trump discussing the government shutdown and the need for the border wall.
Seems like that wouldn’t be a big deal, right? Wrong. A MHC student shared screenshots, along with the message that it was “unacceptable for someone in charge of keeping any community safe, let alone a campus as diverse as MHC’s, to be publicly displaying his support for hateful regimes and organizations.”
All hell broke loose. According to Dillon, both Hect and the college’s administrations joined forces to try and quell the controversy, even hosting multiple events to try and calm down the students who were upset. One of these events, a forum at Mount Holyoke where community members could ask Hect questions, was full of “tension and tears,” according to the student newspaper. Hect tried to explain that he simply liked the tweets that he thought represented times “[when] Trump did something I thought he did well … in hopes to lead to more good behavior,” but that he was not a Trump supporter overall. He also said he regretted liking any tweets that supported building the wall, calling that “a huge mistake.”
After the forum, Hect took it even further, sending an email to the MHC community outlining what else he was going to do in order to try and rectify the situation — including going to “an immersive training program” about “challenging biases.”
Apparently, though, none of these efforts were enough. On Wednesday, MHC President Sonya Stephens announced that Hect would be placed on administrative leave.
“Over the past few weeks, members of our community have expressed concerns about the ability of Chief Daniel Hect to develop the level of trust required to engage in community policing,” Stephens said in a campus-wide email.
Sorry, but this is completely and totally insane.
I personally am not someone who supports the wall (I have explained my reasoning for this many times in other columns), but I still cannot look at these students’ or MHC’s reactions as anything other than absolutely ridiculous and unfair. Why? Because although I myself may not support it, there are several people whom I care about who do, and I know for a fact that these people are not racists. Supporting the wall does not automatically make you a xenophobe or a bigot, it simply makes you someone who has a different opinion from that of other people (including myself) on the question of how to achieve border security.
Seeing things like this always makes me sad . . . not just for the person who is under fire, but also for our country as a whole. After all, this doesn’t help anyone, and it does a lot of harm by worsening the already extreme division we’re seeing among different groups of Americans. By placing Hect on administrative leave, MHC validated the students’ fallacious claims that his support of, for example, the Second Amendment somehow made him a bad, hateful person. It doesn’t — it simply makes him a supporter of the Second Amendment, which, by the way, is a part of our Constitution, meaning that it’s pretty damn egregious to punish someone for supporting it.
Personally, I am lucky enough to have friends and family who have a whole slew of different beliefs. I am close with religious people and atheists, conservatives and liberals, people who support everything Trump does and people who support none of it — and I know that all of them are great people. Unfortunately, not everyone has this kind of social circle, and the people who don’t could really be missing out on knowing some wonderful souls. It’s a really sad situation, and decisions like MHC’s only perpetuate it. What we need is more communication, less cancellation — because the latter makes the former impossible.