Annual Holley Lectures Welcomes Dr. Erec Smith to Bloomfield College

By Alicia Cook

On October 18, The Cyrus H. Holley Professorship in Applied Ethics invited Erec Smith, Ph.D., to campus to present Troll Logic: The Antecedent to the Consequence of Donald Trump.

“We are in the second decade of the 21st century. We have to learn to live with this in the political sphere,” noted College President Richard A. Levao, in his opening remarks. “I am extremely pleased to see Dr. Smith and hear his topic today.”

Dr. Smith, being especially engaged in rhetorical analysis of diversity and identity structure, used his time in the Shelby Art Room to address to the packed crowd the rhetoric of Donald Trump and the supporters he invokes.

He effectively explained the interpretive community of Trump supporters, juxtaposing their interpretations of President Obama to those of Trump. Dr. Smith then compared their rhetoric to internet trolling, a phenomenon of cyber-bullying perpetuated by the ability to be anonymous online.

Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at York College of Pennsylvania, and a co-editor and contributor to The Making of Barack Obama: The Politics of Persuasion (Press, 2013). He is also the author of Obama’s Feminine Discourse: A Rhetorical Necessity of Black Male Leadership, and has published on connections between Buddhist philosophy and rhetoric, and on Fat Studies.

“Dr. Smith not only studied the rhetorical practices of Mr. Trump and his followers, he emphasized the importance of rhetorical awareness: that all citizens should pay close attention to the messages and their contexts, the words and their implications,” summarized Dr. Paul Puccio, Cyrus H. Holley Professor of Applied Ethics. “That’s the bigger lesson to take away from his lecture.”

The Cyrus H. Holley Professorship in Applied Ethics was established in 1999 from a generous endowment from Trustee Cyrus H. Holley.  The College’s first endowed professorship fosters teaching and scholarly creativity in the field of applied ethics. The Board members include Prof. Martha LaBare, Dr. Demetris Nicolaides, Prof. Yuichiro Nishizawa, Dr. Rosita Rodrigues, and Dr. Dunja Trunk.

Holley Lectures are usually held each spring, however Dr. Puccio wanted to feature a lecturer before Election Day to speak on an election-related topic. Last spring, United Nations Representative, and Director of the Quaker U.N. Office in New York, Andrew Tomlinson, spoke at Bloomfield College. (link to article)

“This event enjoyed a record attendance and I was especially happy to see so many students in the room,” said Dr. Puccio, who also alerted those in attendance that October 18 was the last day to register to vote in New Jersey. “We all hear a lot in the news about the disaffection of young people, but it was gratifying to see that many of our students care deeply about this presidential race and the emerging issues.”

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