Election results serve as catalyst for political activism across campus

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Election results serve as catalyst for political activism across campus

Elizabeth Worthington, News Editor

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In light of the Nov. 8 election results in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in a shocking upset, the campus has seen an increase in political activism in the form of protests and rallies.

A group of students organized an impromptu campus-wide walk-out and subsequent solidarity rally on Nov. 11. Students were called on to protest the election results by walking out of their classrooms at 11:15 a.m. and participating in a rally on the Malesardi Quadrangle.

A large crowd gathered outside the Bertrand Library and students were given the opportunity to speak into a megaphone to express their feelings on a Trump presidency, many of which demonstrated indignation, fear, or sadness.

Many professors either encouraged students to join in the walk-out or joined in themselves.

Emma Downey ’18, one of the event’s organizers, led a chant to the crowd with the call to, “Stand up. Fight back.”

“The walk-out was something very needed for many people affected by the new election on campus. It has created an impetus for change, propelled by students of various social, economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds,” Downey said.

“It’s important that we continue to love each other and ourselves. That is the most radical thing we can do at this point,” speaker Janiel Slowly ’19 said.

“I thought the event on Friday was a powerful demonstration of our students expressing their views in a way that was respectful and, for the most part, invested in the idea of unity following a very divisive presidential campaign,” Chief Communications Officer Andy Hirsch said.

Not all students agreed that the walk-out was productive.

Gregory Wolf ’17 said that while he believes the walk-out served as a space for people to productively express their fear or anger, the walk-out may not have been the most effective way to bridge ideological gaps and that there may have been an unintentional side effect of accentuating the political divide.

“[…] it felt to me as if there was an unspoken agreement that, while there are many in America and even some on this campus who support Trump, they were not present, or if present, their voices were not welcome,” Wolf said.

“I don’t think the walk-out was the most effective way to create change. They told the professors ahead of time […] it would have had a bigger effect to just get up and leave. But in my opinion, leaving class is still disrespectful to your professor,” Lindsay Garfinkel ’19 said.

Madison Cooney ’18 expressed her dissatisfaction that the protest was held on Veterans Day, saying, “I just think that there should have been a mention of it because without the Veterans who died for this country, they wouldn’t be able to protest.”

Professor of psychology Chris Boyatzis noted that the students who participated did so because they felt that their own rights and safety are threatened by a Trump presidency. According to Boyatzis, these students have much more legitimacy and cause to protest than those in positions of privilege.

“If there are some Trump supporters who think the walk-out was inappropriate, I’d want to know: Are they at any risk from Trump’s actual policy proposals?” Boyatzis said.

Taking into account the fears expressed by many students, Chief of Public Safety Steve Barilar said, “Public Safety is here for everyone. We want everyone to be safe so if someone needs an escort [to walk home], we’ll give them an escort.”

Following the rally, many participants stayed on the quad to discuss plans for action. Later that evening, a group of faculty, students, and community members gathered together in the Elaine Langone Center (ELC) student space to discuss future steps that can be taken to benefit both the University community and surrounding communities and to create a better world to live in for the next four years.

According to Jorden Sneed ’17, future plans include “continuing the conversations in which students, faculty, administration, and staff discuss social issues and ways to effectively eliminate them or diminish them on campus in addition to methods of awareness spreading and education.”

With these efforts in mind, a group of University students traveled to Bloomsburg University on Nov. 13 to participate in and show support for their Love March that took place that afternoon.

Nov. 15 was a national “#NoDAPL Day of Action” in which groups across the country were called on to host events that symbolized solidarity with indigenous communities and local farmers fighting on the front lines of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Students and faculty members participated in this day of action by setting up a “free market” outside of the Dana Engineering building. The group members laid out items they found around their dorms/homes on tables and on the ground and invited passersby to take whatever they wanted, and leave any items they didn’t need for others to take. People brought and took jewelry, CDs, books, clothing, a TV, a Keurig machine, etc. Any items that were not taken were donated to the Donald L. Heiter Community Center, a non-profit organization in downtown Lewisburg that provides resources to families in need.

Huntley Hughes, a graduate student and one of the group’s organizers, said that the event was meant to demonstrate solidarity and cooperation, and to “support the protesters over there [in North Dakota] and let them know they’re not alone.”

The group stayed outside of Dana from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. They handed out literature about the Pipeline to raise awareness and accepted donations to the legal defense fund and the health clinic for the protesters in North Dakota.

While there was already a working group for this particular protest, the group gained further support following conversations held after the rally on Nov. 11.

Hughes believes the election results succeeded in catalyzing political activism across campus for various social justice issues.

“I like to think that the only good side of what happened is that it’ll shock people out of complacency. If a platform of hateful rhetoric can gain the amount of traction to mobilize people like it has during this election, then a platform of justice and acceptance should be able to do the same thing. And that’s what we’re trying to do today,” Hughes said.

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Thomson has been involved with the group since its beginning and announced the plans for the “day of action” in her classes last week.

One of Thomson’s students, Staci Dubow ’18, explained how the election made her realize how important of an issue the environment is becoming, especially after seeing Trump’s 100 day plan.

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