Men and women in cocktail attire intermixed with students on skateboards, Chapman student ambassadors donned their stately red coats and protestors held signs that read, “War criminals should not be honored.”
This was the scene of the opening reception of the Argyros School of Business 20th anniversary event, where former President George W. Bush attended as a guest of honor.
While guests arrived and conversed with Chapman faculty and administration members – including Dean of Students Jerry Price, Wilkinson College Dean Jennifer Keene and presidency scholar Lori Cox Han, amongst others – a group of students gathered at the Wells Fargo Stage outside the Leatherby Libraries to protest Bush’s presence on campus. Members of Orange Police Department and Chapman’s Public Safety looked over the crowd, as the student voices traveled across the Attallah Piazza.
“I am O.K. with Bush coming to campus, but I think the event is really strange,” said Luca Espinosa, one of the protestors. “It is not about the university; it’s mostly rich, old donors who paid to come see him.”
Espinosa was one of about a dozen students in opposition, who chanted “How do you spell murder? B. U. S. H.,” to the crowd of attendees as they enjoyed drinks and appetizers.
Taylor Duncker, president of Chapman Republicans, told The Panther at the opening reception that she admires anyone acting upon their first amendment rights.
“It’s exciting. They can do what they want. They have their right to protest and we have a right to be here,” Duncker said.
A student involved in the organizing of the event told The Panther that the protestors were not in opposition to the event itself, but rather that the former President would not be available for “critical questioning” from students while on campus.
“This is not partisan, it’s not because Bush is a Republican,” the student organizer said. “This is about his actual actions in office. Leaders need to be held to a basic ethical standard.”
While the majority of those in the event’s attendance stayed clear of the protestors, some individuals approached the students. David Pyle, who has engaged in philanthropy work with the Argyros family, was one of the attendees who spoke the students.
“I applaud the students’ right to say what’s on their mind and express their point of view,” Pyle said. “Some people can feel threatened by them, everyone is huddled over there. I said, ‘You know what, I am going over there and talk to these people.’ We have to have a dialogue and talk things out.”
The chants of students continued as about 80 guests made their way into the Harold Hutton Sports Center for the event, comprised of a dinner and interview between Julianne Argyros and former President Bush.