Nothing has been reported since the initial stories came out last week regarding the young black female student knocked to the ground by a group of white males yelling ‘Trump-Trump-Trump.’ If it were the only story of its kind we’d probably be hearing a lot more, but sadly, the Villanova incident has quickly got lost in a sea of similar incidents, many on college campuses around the country.

However, I take this story personally. Being a Villanova alum, and having had my share of experiences on campus as a student, my instincts were to run to the Main Line and do something.

Not much, if anything, has changed regarding the numbers of black students attending Villanova since I graduated in ’82. Black alumni don’t have a connection to the university and stay away in droves. I barely have any connection to anything that goes on up there and would have been challenged to make any kind of difference by just showing up, but somehow I wanted to let the young lady know that I had her back.

Within the last couple years, some efforts have been made to reengage the black alums. Thanks to social media, word of mouth, and a couple on campus events, a few us have discovered each other. Those of us who are members of the Alumni Black Cultural Society Facebook Group received notice that a post-election gathering was being convened on campus which was accompanied by this statement…

Your presence in the fight to preserve our respect as a valued culture with the Villanova Community is paramount to producing a powerful and positive outcome. I know some of us may have not had the best of experiences during our time. Lets band together now to make sure our future generation does not have to. At the end of the day Villanova is our school and we need to protect our own.

trump-vuI breathed a sigh of relief. Now, I actually had a reason to go on campus and address this attack personally. All week, I stood in front of the mirror and practiced what I’d say when it was my turn to talk – not really – and made my way to Lancaster Ave last night to take part.

I’m so removed from stuff up there that I had to ask where CafeNova was. Then, a couple days ago an update came out that the venue was changed to the Villanova Room. I could only assume that the buzz about this meeting was growing.

I arrived about an hour before the event and took a stroll around campus…at night. I peeked in on some of my old haunts and marveled at the gorgeous improvements they’ve made to an already gorgeous campus. As an engineer, I never spent much time in the business school buildings, but Bartley Hall has received an amazing facelift and serves as a quasi student center, so I stopped in there to take in the sites. I hopped on Facebook to see any last minute updates to the event I was about to attend and I read this comment from a BCS Alum…

I called the University today and was told that the incident was “mischaracterized”. I’m very confused about the semantics.

Oh damn. Now I’ve got something new to ask when I get in there.

The Villanova Room is in the Connelly Center, which is the official student center. I arrived a few minutes early to reminisce, see what changed, and grab a quick bite. 15 minutes before the doors were scheduled to open, a long line was forming in front of the Villanova Room. No way all those people were going to this meeting. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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The entrance to the Connelly Center was looking all spiffy

The mood was upbeat and everyone came in the room trying to find a seat like it was a game of musical chairs. They gave us a card with a number on it that directed us to what section to sit in, but they soon started bringing out more chairs like we do at big events in a black church. The room got so overwhelmed with people that the facilitators finally told folks to sit on the floor or grab some wall. Honestly, if the fire marshal were there, somebody was going to be in trouble. That room was packed to the gills.

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Father Donohue addressing the packed room

Once I saw that the event was being run by Teresa A. Nance, Ph.D. Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer, I knew we were in good hands. She and I have a special relationship as we both started at Villanova at the same time; me as a student and she as a communications professor. She is my only connection to the university and has been instrumental in so many black students surviving on campus through the years.

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I love me some Dr. Nance…from an earlier pic

My major disappointment at the event was that there was no mention of the incident or an update. But, it was evident that the incident weighed heavily on the minds of the students and faculty in attendance.

Dr. Nance made it clear in her remarks that this was an event for the students. From the show of hands, there were about a dozen alumni present in the crowd that I estimate to be at nearly 500 folks. Due to the overwhelming crowd, Dr. Nance and crew had to make on-the-fly adjustments (they called them audibles) to what they had planned in order for as many voices to be heard as possible. With the students being the priority, I bailed out about halfway through the event feeling good about what I saw and heard.

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In keeping with the ground rules, I won’t tell you much of what was said last night because…”What happens in the discussions stays in the discussion”

It really hit home with me that most of these students have just participated in their first election after being a child at the start of President Obama’s administration. The Trump effect on them and this country will nurture them into adulthood. The predominate response throughout the room was that they have instantly become immersed in politics, race, decency, inclusion and the need to protect what’s important to them, whether they wanted to or not.

I’m encouraged that as they grow, they will bring a wholesome new perspective to human relations in this country as a result of the Trump effect.

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Meet sophomores Sarah and Jenna, and my two photo bombers. I learned a few things listening to their reactions of the election and the on campus incident

Things may look crazy now, but I think the future is in good hands with these young folks.

My favorite quotes from last night…

“Why is it that we don’t know each other?”

Dr. Nance

“Demonstrate respect for one another”

Father Peter Donohue, University President

I don’t like when our students turn their back at home basketball games when the opposing team is introduced and yell, ‘You Suck’”

Father Peter Donohue, University President

“Nobody leaves here tonight without talking to somebody.”

Dr. Nance

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On the way out, I met these three sophomores, all from Philly and living on campus. They said they’d be watching each other’s back.