Staff Writer: Ashley Garcia, Isiah Anderson, K. Conner, & Estefania Risso Osorio
Last week an email was sent out to Wingate students, faculty and staff stating that the Vice President was coming to campus for the Dan Bishop Rally on September 9th. This caused some disturbance throughout the campus.
Wingate president, Dr. Rhett Brown, said that though many people thought that Wingate University officials had invited Pence to campus, it was the Bishop campaign that scouted out and contracted to use the Batte Center after looking at several other places to hold their event.
They were interested in making one final campaign push before the special District 9 election, between Bishop and Dan McCready, on September 10.
Though school officials originally planned for classes to be held as usual, once all security detail was realized, they canceled classes for safety precautions.
Some students and faculty were not that pleased that the event was being held on campus and were concerned about classes being cancelled.
Dr. Brown said that he had received some interesting feedback about the event throughout various media.
“Most of the student comments I’ve heard were on Twitter… most of them that have gotten to me were negative and not supportive of our decision to allow this to happen,” said Brown.
“The parent Facebook page was mostly supportive, and then all of a sudden it took a turn. Then I’ve heard from faculty and staff through email or even letters for either registering their support of what I’ve done or their displeasure.”
He said that a few Trustees had called his office to express their support, to say they were attending or to question his judgment about allowing this. But Brown said he felt like he shouldn’t or couldn’t say no to the opportunity of hosting the Vice President of the United States.
“I do expect protests to happen on campus… and I hope this is an opportunity to practice that.. How to have dialogue,” said Dr. Brown. “When somebody believes something that we object to and how to publicly expressed that and in a responsible safe way.”
As expected, about 11 a.m. on Monday, while a line was forming outside of the Batte Center, about 50 students and faculty members were across the road protesting the event.
Most of the protestors said it put them in a difficult position with Pence being on campus. It made them feel threatened.
Dr. Paige Rawson said, “Their legislation is very anti LGBTQ. It’s racist and very discriminatory. He’s pro-wall and pro-gun.”
The leader of the protest, Matthew Warren, was not happy about Pence’s visit and thought it was unfortunate as it made students feel divided.
“It’s very confusing for Wingate students to feel like they belong here when the University allows strong conservative candidates to be here,” said Warren.
Republican Nava Helms claimed that she didn’t have anything against the protestors and that they are in their right of Freedom of Speech.
By 12:20 p.m., McGee Theater had reached maximum capacity with 556 people in the room. Most of the audience appeared to be Caucasian and above the age of 40. Many also boasted, “Make America Great Again” hats or pins.
About 30 Wingate students were seated in a special student section. The remainder of the audience came from outside the University.
Before the event started, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr greeted and took pictures with audience members.
About 1:25 p.m. Baptist Pastor Jim Cruz opened the rally with a prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by retired US Army General Michael Verono.White House Cabinet member, Mick Mulvaney, introduced Dan Bishop.
Bishop spoke for about 10 minutes and encouraged the audience to invite friends and family to vote on September 10th.
He ended his speech with, “It is a choice to stand up for America and fight back against Socialism.”
Vice President Pence then took the stage, speaking in favor of Bishop for Congress.
“The first reason to support Dan Bishop is because he has North Carolina running through his veins,” Vice President Pence said.
He claimed that Bishop has done a lot for North Carolina–, that Bishop and the Republicans will fight against illegal aliens who have criminal records.
Pence ended the event saying, “Pray for America. Pray for the people of America… There will always be more that Unites us in this United States of America that will ever divide us and chief among those things is faith.”
Brown said that once Bishop’s campaign booked the Batte Center, the University reached out to the McCready campaign offering to host them as well, but that campaign declined the opportunity.