Jenna Fischer, an alum of The Office and current star of ABC’s Splitting Up together, is taking a stand with the students of DePauw University against hatred and bigotry. Fischer made the announcement on her Instagram account on Wednesday in an upsetting but ultimately moving description of what unfolded from her point of view.
What should have been a fairly standard Q&A visit and book signing (Fischer was also going to talk about her book, The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide) with the DePauw theater students became an instructive moment for the actor. In her Instagram post, she writes: “Just before taking the stage that evening, the University’s representatives said that there could be some demonstrations at the event. They then informed me of some recent incidents on campus, which included racial, homophobic, and anti-Semitic slurs and hostilities. Needless to say, I was shocked and upset to hear what was happening on their campus.”
Fischer continued, explaining that at one point the student protesters interrupted her and began speaking. “The student protesters spoke about their experiences and about the hate they have been encountering,” she recalls. “I could feel the pain, sadness, and fear coming from these students. No student should feel at risk, or have to suffer the kinds of bigotry and hate these students have encountered.”
Deadline did some additional reporting on what happened at Fischer’s DePauw event, finding a tweet that explains, from an attendee’s point of view, what happened on Tuesday evening. One Twitter user, Shannon Samson, posted a video showing student protesters holding signs and walking up the aisles. “Tense protest at @jennafischer book-signing lecture and event at @DePauwU over racial incidents on campus,” Samson wrote as the caption to the video.
— Shannon Samson (@ShannonSamson) April 18, 2018
Samson’s video implies that the student protesters were not attempting to maliciously override Fischer’s event or that they had any negative feelings about Fischer specifically. Instead, from what can be gleaned from the actor’s statement and this video, these student protesters wanted to use the event as a means to spread their own denouncement of what was happening at their school. Deadline further reports this student protest began about 15 minutes into the event and lasted about 10 minutes.
According to local news outlet WTHR, about 200 African-American students stood up during the event and began talking, as we can see in the video posted above. These students were protesting against racially-charged, bigoted messages that reportedly targeted black students that were written on campus property recently. We’ll link out to a tweet (see it here) that describes the specific messages that were written and provides further evidence of why these students were upset.
Fischer’s response to what happened on Tuesday night was also included in her Instagram statement. She states: “In light of last night’s events, using the full amount I was paid by the University, I will be making equal donations to the NAACP, The Anti-Defamation League, and the Trevor Project in the name of the students of DePauw University. My hope is for all people to be respected, accepted, and loved for their individuality and uniqueness. And, above all, to be safe.”
Fischer’s choice of organizations to donate to isn’t accidental, either, but very much tied to the events of Tuesday night. The NAACP promotes racial and social equality and is dedicated to causes and concerns specifically affecting African-Americans. The Anti-Defamation League is an organization that fights anti-Semitic speech and groups who give rise to anti-Semitic behavior. Finally, the Trevor Project is an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth, giving them a lifeline and providing both crisis intervention and suicide prevention through a range of services.
In summation, Fischer’s philanthropic promise carries enormous weight and is a wonderful gesture of solidarity. Here’s to hoping her message and donation helps in some way.