Melania Mayhem: Students React to Administration’s Decision


Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks.


One afternoon in September, T3 and T4 students were called into the theater for an unscheduled assembly. The assembly, led by UNIS’ executive director Dr. Daniel Brenner, was about the controversy behind the “unique opportunity” to send J3 and J4 students to tour the New York Stock Exchange and participate in ringing the opening bell with the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump.

The decision to send Junior School students had been criticized by both parents and students. “My heart actually dropped [when I found out the event was occurring],” said Claudia Campi in T3. Students and parents worried that the young students would be used as political props for the Trump administration. Others worried that the photos would be seen as an endorsement of the Trump administration by the school and its community. However, in a poll by @unis_memes that consisted of 30 responses from T3 and T4 students alike, the average opinion was neutral. “People take it in two different ways,” says T3 Josie Mbappe Murmann, who has attended UNIS since JA. “The way I take it is that it is fine. My issue with it is that the school brought Junior School kids. It should be kids who are consciously aware of the decision they are making and will be more educated and impacted on the trip”.

Still, many students were quick to point out that the school organized an assembly with students after President Donald Trump’s election win. This had not been done after any other presidential election.

Students were also concerned with the age group of the students who would be going to the New York Stock Exchange. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said one T3 student, “Why would the school send kids who have no idea about stocks or politics? If you are going to send students, send the ones who are studying both of those. Send the ones who have their own political opinions and ideals”. Tea Kuzbari, a T3 student, seemed to agree, “[The administration] should have been more aware of the fact that they were sending junior school children who had little idea of what they were ‘supporting.’” As written in an article by Vanity Fair, one parent wrote in an email, “Instead of enlisting some photogenic kids as UNIS PR props, might I suggest we offer to the U.S. Mission that they could invite some children from the cages in Mexicali?”
In response to the controversial invitation, Dr. Brenner sent a letter out explaining the school’s decision to participate in the tour. He wrote, “Given who we are as a school community we considered the potentially sensitive nature of this request and how it might cause a strong reaction from some of our parents and students.” Still, Dr. Brenner continued, “We are mindful of the fact that the United Nations stands for giving voice to differing opinions and positions and that debate and dialogue are fundamental to its core mission.”

Participation in the event was completely voluntary and over 90 families had signed up to attend. “Parents who do not want their child to go can decline the invitation,” says T3 Nino DiGiuseppe, “I don’t support the Trump administration, but the school is not forcing children to go. It is up to the parents.”