“Build the wall!”
“Is this “” “
“Build the wall!”
” “” our next “” “
“Build the wall!”
” “” president?”
Amid calls to build a wall from one side of the room to tears on the other, senior Benjamin Gomez stood in the middle of the Center for Sciences and Innovation as he watched the long awaited results of the 2016 presidential election.
“I liked that all of the organizations got together. I thought that was really cool and a great way to showcase how people on campus can be a productive discussion of the issues that face our nation,” said Gomez, a marketing, management, and entertainment business major.
But as the night continued, friendly politics were interrupted by students less interested in engaging with their peers.
“It was kind of a let down as the night went on, as we went from that productive discussion and stable and respectful recognition of each other’s views to more of an immature and unnecessary dialogue and chanting that really just detracted from the night,” Gomez said.
Following the surprising win of Republican nominee Donald Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, reactions across Trinity have varied. To help students process the election and foster discussion, Director of Student Involvement Jamie Thompson hosted a campus-wide post-election conversation.
“It was about creating a place for students to share, listen, learn, and engage. Nothing more complicated than that,” Thompson said. “All sides wanted to share their perspective and be heard. Fundamentally, we all want to be heard, and especially in times when our identities and core values are challenged.”
Less than 24 hours after the all-but-official announcement (barring a revolt by the electoral college), students from all sides of the political spectrum attended the event.
“It was our responsibility to be there for all students, whether the election result was in their favor or not. I was at the event as support for all students. We hoped the event would provide the space for students to process their initial raw emotions and reactions post-election and be in a space to be heard respectively by all parties,” said Esther Kim, Coordinator for Student Programs.
One student in attendance was Faith Byrne, a senior communication and anthropology double major. Byrne said she’s had a particularly difficult time coming to grips with President-elect Trump’s 279 electoral votes versus Secretary Clinton’s 228.
“I went because I think I was looking for answers. Looking for answers from those who support Donald Trump, while also coming together as a community of those who are terrified and scared right now. I just wanted to know that I’m not the only one on Trinity’s campus who felt this way,” Byrne said.
While Byrne sought comfort in students who shared her feelings of fear and disbelief, first year Isaac Bartolomei was encouraged by the bipartisan discussions he was able to participate in.
“At CSI, I had a great opportunity to talk with students from both the Trinity Progressives and Tigers for Liberty,” Bartolomei said. “I got to hear the thoughts and concerns from two radically different viewpoints, without disrespect or condescension from either side. Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in intellectual tribalism, in which we define ourselves by our political beliefs and doctrine and blindly defend them without listening to other perspectives. I’ve been refreshed to talk to many at Trinity who can respect my differing opinion.”
Unfortunately, Gomez didn’t observe the same reaction.
“I think it really was a night that a lot of people thought would go a different way. The campus and a lot of people like myself are trying to come to terms with it, but certain people were engaging in this rhetoric that’s really just rude. It did nothing but promote these ideas of racism and bigotry and just downright disrespect for all the diversity we have on our campus,” Gomez said.
Sophomore Luke Ayers has taken time since the summer to reflect on the similar rhetoric Gomez observed on election night.
“I spoke to my grandma this summer when I went to visit her in Wisconsin. The first vote she cast was for FDR in 1932. I asked her if she had ever seen anything like the 2016 election, and her response was “˜No, never. The disrespect… This is all new.’ I see this as the problem. There is a failing, on both sides, of people to respect the other side. I’m not saying every person disrespects their political opponents, but it is widespread,” Ayers said.
But Ayers sees how dialogue can be improved on campus and is hopeful for the months following the election.
“Working to make sure that we all better understand the wide variety of life experiences and perspectives represented at Trinity is a first step that I don’t see as negotiable. When we understand each other better, we are able to have healthier dialogue and grow mutual respect,” Ayers said.
Kim agrees. In her eyes, the millennial generation, which encompasses current Trinity students, is inherently drawn to conversations of societal improvement.
“The millennial generation is very active in engaging in societal issues and current news. Students need to continue to engage with their society, including the election, because it affects them and their communities each day. Their time at Trinity is limited and we hope they engage in difficult conversations during their time here so they can be informed citizens of society,” Kim said.
Although the administration is hopeful to expand dialogue across the campus, sophomore Danielle Couch said she is afraid to voice her third party opinions.
“I voted and I’m proud that I voted but I most definitely try to whisper if I criticize anything Clinton-related,” said Couch, a business analytics major. “I’m afraid people will look at me like I’m a monster “” but just because Trump is conservative, doesn’t mean I’m bad for having some conservative views. It’s funny: before Election Day, I wasn’t ashamed to be conservative but now I’m nervous to even say the words that I am or was conservative.”
In spite of of high tensions following the campus-wide conversation on Wednesday afternoon, Thompson looks to the future for further student-led discussion.
“With time and practice, it’s imperative that we share more deeply and from authentic places. Only then can we begin to understand where others come from, why they hold specific views, and the multiple identities that have shaped who they are,” Thompson said.
The election results are in. The country awaits the inauguration of the 45th president and Trinity’s campus faces a critical moment of reflection. Although Gomez is concerned about the implications of the late election night chanting, this is the time to engage in meaningful debate.
“Considering Trinity’s huge international population, to just kind of make these chants in a public area with your peers that you see day in and day out is really disappointing. It’s one of those eye-opening things,” Gomez said. “All parties need to sit down when we’re actually conversing and being productive, because I think that’s really important. I think Trinity is a great vehicle for debate because of the close-knit campus community.”
With additional reporting by Julia Weis.