Bryn Mawr student hounded after asking to share ride to Trump event

Bryn Mawr College freshman Andi Moritz, 18, posted a request for a ride to a Trump rally on a college Facebook site. Moritz was ostracized by her classmates through a series of angry comments, calling her ignorant and labeling her a racist. Two days later, she dropped out.

Andi Moritz couldn't get the comments out of her head. A Facebook post the Bryn Mawr College freshman made on the school's ride-share page earlier that September day had drawn harsh backlash from dozens of students, most of whom she didn't know.

She was looking for someone to share a ride to a campaign event for Donald Trump.

"Nobody has the right to an opinion of bigotry. 0 tolerance for fascists!"

"You want to go campaign for a man who has systematically oppressed entire ethnic/racial groups not to mention the LGBTQIA+ community and many others."

"Why y'all doing this free labor for white supremacists tho."

Moritz called the college's suicide hotline.

"I just needed to talk to someone," said Moritz, 18, of Hershey. "I was very sad. I wanted out of that college."

Two days later she dropped out.

Moritz - whose story was first reported in a blog by students in a Bryn Mawr journalism class - said she had struggled with mild depression and anxiety in high school and had been in counseling before the incident.

At Bryn Mawr, she'd felt politically isolated. But, she said, it was that night's mean-spirited posts that finally led her to leave.

Being a young Republican and Trump supporter on a largely liberal college campus can be a rough road.

"People did say things to us that you would call insulting," said Sean Egan, 20, president of the University of Pennsylvania College Republicans. "If you tried to talk about something substantive [with liberal students], it would turn into 'He's a racist.' "

Even before Trump declared his candidacy, it wasn't easy for Gloria Kim, who was a freshman at Swarthmore in January 2015 when she wrote a commentary for Economics21.org titled "Life as a Conservative at a Liberal College."

"To most students, when I oppose a policy such as Obamacare, I become a coldhearted, soulless person who wants to undermine the oppressed people of America," she wrote.

Egan, a junior economics major from New York City, said he brushed off the insults and clung to his beliefs.

"I felt [Trump] had a strong platform and a lot of good intentions toward making our country stronger and better for middle-class Americans," he said.

Moritz said she wished she could have joined a student Republican club, but there isn't one at Bryn Mawr.

Several students at the women's college who wrote critically to her did not return emails or declined to comment for this article. Neither the student government association president nor Bryn Mawr officials would talk about the incident. The college issued a statement:

"Freedom of speech and expression can lead to heated debate on campuses, and the Bryn Mawr campus has not been immune from the polarization of views that characterized the campaign. Ad hominem attacks have no place in these discussions and do nothing to help us learn from or better understand one another. We continue to strive to be a place that both affirms freedom of speech and promotes civil discourse."

Anna Gargiulo, 19, the Bryn Mawr sophomore who wrote the blog post, said she feels that Moritz shouldn't have been subjected to such "cyberbullying" just because of her political beliefs. Gargiulo said she, too, faced ridicule from Bryn Mawr students for telling Moritz's story, but she doesn't regret it.

"In a way, it was me speaking up about an event that honestly shouldn't have happened on a college campus like Bryn Mawr," said Gargiulo, a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton. "It just makes me scared in terms of where we're headed if the youth in this country can't understand how to respectfully disagree."

Moritz thought she and the prestigious private college on the Main Line were a perfect fit. Her mother gave her the middle name Bryn because a book she read when pregnant included a character who attended the school.

"I thought, 'Wow, destiny,' " she recalled. " 'I have to get into this college.' "

Moritz had attended Hershey High School, where she was free to discuss her political views without ridicule, she said. She got interested in politics as a junior when she joined a youth-in-government club. At first, she identified as a Democrat because of issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and environmental protection - she's still socially liberal, she said.

But then she began to look at national security, terrorism, and gun rights, and became more conservative, like her father, who had been in the military.

At Bryn Mawr, she had planned on majoring in international relations and dreamed of working at the State Department. She liked her dorm and her roommates. But most people she met were liberal.

After reaching out online to the Trump campaign, she was contacted by a volunteer who offered her a ride to knock on doors in the area. Concerned for her safety, she didn't want to go to the event on her own with a stranger. She sought a companion.

"I wasn't that big of a fan of Trump," she said. "He wasn't somebody I would excitedly vote for." She especially disliked his comments about women.

But, she said, she disliked Clinton more.

In Moritz's initial post, she included: "If you're not comfortable about being 'out' about not hating Trump feel free to message me privately."

Some students were upset that she used "out" in that context, she said. She said she apologized and removed that sentence.

Criticism continued. That someone would call her a white supremacist was particularly upsetting.

"A white supremacist is somebody who thinks that white people are superior to other races," she said. "That's not something I believe in at all."

Moritz's post created such a stir on campus that students on her floor held a meeting that night, and after a discussion, she took the entire post down.

Some people were supportive and told those attacking her to back off, she said.

Women on her floor, she said, were kind.

But that support wasn't enough to stall a growing feeling that she didn't belong there. Her parents, she said, supported her decision to quit and move back home.

Moritz's parents, who provide care for disadvantaged youth in the Hershey area, declined to be interviewed.

Her boyfriend, Ethan DeFrank, 19, a computer-science major at the University of Pittsburgh and a Clinton supporter, didn't like how Moritz was treated.

"As a liberal, it's really upsetting and shameful to see people who I technically agree with treat somebody like that, especially somebody I love," he said.

Moritz said she found no comfort at the counseling center, and when she told her dean that she was withdrawing, she felt she got no resistance.

She wishes Bryn Mawr would have held an open conversation about the uproar.

In retrospect, she said she understands how students may have been hurt by her post, something she blames on media portraits of conservatives as racists and haters of gays and lesbians.

"I would say most conservatives do not hate anyone," she said, "but that's not what gets shown."

Moritz took a full-time job at a local animal shelter. She has explored a few other colleges, including Messiah College, a Christian campus in Cumberland County, but has no immediate plans to go back to school.

She said she hopes talking about what happened to her will help liberal and conservative students engage in better dialogue.

"Disliking each other or hating each other," she said, "isn't going to get us anywhere."

ssnyder@phillynews.com

215-854-4693 @ssnyderinq

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