As the tumultuous election cycle concludes, the University is hosting a series of events to reflect upon the immediate aftermath of the election. With countless forums, voter registration drives and student debates, the election has dominated campus (and Zoom) discussions for over a year.
In a campus-wide email, University President John Bravman explained that these events will align with the University’s Civic Action Plan, which aspires to expand the civic consciousness and capacities of its faculty and students through scholarship and discussion. Bravman also acknowledged that although many students are emotionally invested in the election, students must remain respectful of the democratic process. “Many individuals are highly invested in the outcome of races in all levels of government. This investment is a requisite part of a vibrant democracy. However, no matter which candidates you support, please be respectful of the democratic process… Be the Bucknellians I know you to be,” Bravman said.
Many students have grappled with anxiety and anguish as the election neared. The Counseling & Student Development Center (CSDC) has provided Outreach Resources and Tips & Practices for students to help manage stress. The CSDC hosted two drop-in Zoom sessions as a safe space in the community on Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. “In this semester of great uncertainty, the U.S. Presidential election has the potential to compound the anxiety of many members of our community, and we recognize the disparate impact of the upcoming election on those who are already feeling vulnerable in our current highly polarized environment,” Counseling and Student Development Center Director Kelly Kettlewell said on the Message Center.
Likewise, Chaplain Kurt Nelson led a meditative Labyrinth Walk — an ancient spiritual practice that focuses on centering, contemplation and tranquility — on Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. beginning at the Farm Shed. “[A Labyrinth Walk is] a simple, accessible, practice which has meant something to people across continents and millennia, right here in our own backyard,” Nelson said. “It is meant to introduce anyone who wishes to a grounding practice in the midst of these anxious days (not merely a polarized election, but a pandemic, and a semester, and the renewed visibility and focus of racist violence).”
Nelson, along with Rabbi Jessica Goldberg and Chaplain for the Muslim Community Muhammad Ali, hosted a multi-faith “Chaplain Chat” on Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m. Nelson advertised the conversation as a time for listening, reflection and processing as we begin to understand what civic responsibility looks like at such a polarized moment. “We need to do some deep listening and some connecting to the stories that underpin how we vote and identify politically. Hopefully there, we can build some bridges and forge a new way forward as we think about building a more just and peaceful and perfect union,” he said.
Other discussions will use student reactions and concerns as a launchpad to critically analyze the nature of democracy and civil discourse. “The Humanities Center Hot Topics: Election, Humanities, Democracy” hosted by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Adam Burgos and Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies Erica Delsandro on Nov. 6 at 12:30 p.m. will use skills taught in Humanities classes — such as discerning a narrative, the role of logical argumentation, and intellectual curiosity — to interpret the immediate aftermath of the election. “As humanities professors we want our students to be active, critical and invested civic actors, and we think a prioritization of the humanities aids in these goals,” Burgos said.
Similarly, Kelsey Hicks-Buns, director of the Women’s Resource Center, and Christina Johnson, staff psychologist-multicultural specialist, facilitated “What’s Next: A Post Election Dialogue with Kelsey & Christina,” and the political science department hosted a Zoom Q&A on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Both events considered the implications of each possible outcome through a feminist, economic and political lens.
There was also a student-led Post-Election Round Table on Nov. 5 from 5-6 p.m., which student organizers advertised as “a space for multi-partisan discussion and focused on ideas and topics rather than on candidates.”
U.S. President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 halted academic work in many University courses in the days after the election. Many professors have already made scheduling adjustments in advance. “I’ve tried to make the classroom a place for exchanging information and processing; I think it’s okay if our syllabus goals take a backseat for a bit, if it means creating that space,” Assistant Professor of English Literature Chase Gregory said.
Gregory also geared her class assignments in the weeks leading up to election day towards themes that related to events outside of the classroom. “In my ‘Divas, Drag, and Dirt’ class, for example, we talked about the ways camp aesthetic can both kick against and abet the rise of fascism (we watched ‘Cabaret,’ learned about punk music’s appropriation of Nazi fashion and discussed Milo Yiannopoulos and the rise of the alt-right),” Gregory said.
As students continue to process the election, faculty urge students to be active, critical and invested members in the University and national community. “Bucknellians have a long history of performing their civic duty as active members of and leaders in their communities. I encourage you to follow in that tradition by staying informed about political issues, thinking critically and participating safely, thoughtfully and constructively in your communities both here and at home,” said President Bravman.