On Thursday, March 21, Trinity student Maddie D’Iorio attended the signing of Executive Order 13865 and President Trump’s remarks in the White House East Room. D’Iorio was invited after being fired from her position as an opinion columnist for the Trinitonian, Trinity’s school newspaper. Around 60 other college students were also invited.
Last month, activist Hayden Williams was assaulted at UC-Berkeley, where he was assisting the Turning Point, USA (TPUSA) chapter. Williams is a field representative for the Leadership Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides training and assistance to nonpartisan conservative student groups, like TPUSA chapters. Shortly after, President Trump spoke about the incident at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, MD, including his plans for the executive order.
D’Iorio was fired from the Trinitonian on February 27. “[T]he situation had nothing to do with the content she was producing or the perspective she was offering, rather with her position as an executive editor of [the Tower],” wrote Trinitonian editor-in-chief Julia Weis in an email.
D’Iorio is the lifestyle editor and the deputy editor for the Tower and began as a Trinitonian columnist in August. “[Getting fired] was really quite surprising,” said D’Iorio. “I told them in January that I wasn’t planning on working after that semester, because I felt that opinion columnists should really only have a year, to allow another student to have their voice be heard the next year.”
In a January 21 email to D’Iorio, Weis described steps that the Trinitonian staff took to avoid a potential conflict of interest, including removing her from the back-end of the website to avoid the appearance of the two publications sharing stories.
“We talked about the fact that there might be a conflict of interest with the Tower, but I thought that it was all taken care of because they said we had reached a solution,” said D’Iorio, adding that she “didn’t understand why the situation had changed.”
After her termination, D’Iorio shared the news with Manfred Wendt, executive director of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT), a statewide organization with chapters at several schools, including Trinity. Wendt is also a Trinity alumnus (class of 2018).
“I told Manfred because he’s a friend,” said D’Iorio. “I didn’t expect that he would actually do anything with it, so being invited to the White House was a total surprise.”
In preparation for the signing of the order, the White House began searching for students to invie. Through Wendt’s personal and professional network, D’Iorio’s name came to the attention of the White House Social Office. D’Iorio and two other Texas students, including Saurabh Sharma, chairman of YCT statewide and the YCT chapter at the University of Texas, were invited to attend the Thursday event.
Bernadette Tasy, a masters student in speech pathology at Fresno State University and leader of Fresno State’s Students for Life of America (SFLA) chapter said “I am grateful for President Trump’s support for the students across the country who have been silenced on our college campuses, including myself.”
Tasy stood behind Trump during his remarks and the signing of the order. The Fresno State SFLA chapter found itself in a legal battle after a professor erased their chalk messages in 2017. “Our free speech has been shut down by administrators, professors, and other students. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s legislators, judges, and voters, so it’s critical that our universities uphold the value of free speech,” said Tasy.
Dr. David Crockett, chair of Trinity’s political science department, wrote in an email that “there are always issues with campus speech codes and with bureaucratic barriers placed in front of student conservative groups trying to bring speakers to campus. I would say that the state of free speech at Trinity is fairly healthy.” D’Iorio echoed Crockett’s sentiments in saying that “generally Trinity is on the better end; our administration for the most part is pretty welcoming and accepting of different views.”
Crockett added that Trinity is not without challenges, noting pushback after a March 2018 Facebook video highlighting Trump’s 2016 digital director and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, Trinity class of 1999. “I haven’t witnessed attempts to squelch it [free speech]–although there have been examples of alumni who threatened to withhold funds from the university because it recognized Brad Parscale in some online format last year.”
“It might just be a product of us being in the south and being in Texas, but I think generally people are nicer. I talked to a few other students, and people are just downright rude to them all the time and they have to deal with it every day,” D’Iorio said of general campus attitude towards conservatives. “We sometimes get a small portion of that, but it’s really nothing in comparison to these other schools.”
Watch the signing of the tningon YouTube.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article have been thoroughly fact checked and examined for bias by Nathan Darsch and Isaiah Mitchell, the other editors for the Tower. D’Iorio did not edit the article.
Update: this article has been lightly edited for clarity.
Photo by Maddie D’Iorio.