Community processes election results


Leah Boynton

As election results filtered in through the night, students at the Poet’s Corner of the Wardman Library watched as Donald Trump was declared the 45th President of the United States on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Some sighed before returning to their study tables and others cried quietly as they packed their things to leave. When the library approached its closing time at midnight, students gathered on the first floor to begin the process of comprehending the news. 

At 7 a.m. the next day, seniors Sammantha Vega and Christina Brown set out a blanket next to The Rock and invited students to come sit with them and discuss the election results on a live Facebook video. Vega and Brown spent many hours the night before drawing a map of the United States in the ASWC Senate office and marking the states blue and red as the hours passed. “Sammantha and I wanted to offer a safe space for students,” Brown said. “We felt so helpless and trapped, we thought the best we could do is just give people a space where they can be supported and raw with their emotions.” 

At the same time, senior Andrea Perez and juniors Brandy Barajas and Christina Prieto organized a campus-wide chalking to give students a means by which to voice their opinions. 

At 7:10 a.m., President Sharon Herzberger sent out an email that highlighted the diversity of Whittier College and emphasized the importance of acceptance. “More than ever, let’s vow to be an example of inclusivity,” Herzberger wrote. “Let’s demonstrate we can listen and learn from each other, show respect for our differences, and find common ground upon which we all will gain strength.”

Soon after, students received an email from the Dean of Students Joel Perez encouraging them to attend a community forum on campus organized by Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Sara Angevine and the President’s Office at 4:30 p.m. in the Poet’s Corner of the Wardman Library. The email also said that counseling services are available on campus for students.

Students gathered and chalked the campus throughout the day. Students used other public spaces as a form of expression. Someone defaced The Rock beside the Ettinger Lounge with “FDT” and “AmeriKKKa” in bright red spray paint. Another student went to Michael’s Craft Store and purchased black paint to cover the negative message.

Many professors were unsure of how to approach their classes. Some chose to cancel class while others decided to take class time to speak freely about the election. Associate Professor of French Dr. Andrew Wallis’s freshman writing seminar began with a moment of Quaker silence. Some professors chose not to acknowledge the election results or briefly acknowledged them and then continued on with class as usual. 

Associate Professor of Sociology Julie Collins-Dogrul used her Self and Society class to discuss methodology and elections data, unsure of how else to properly address the election while dealing with her own emotions. “At dawn today, I cried quietly in the shower,” Collins-Dogrul said. 

“I didn’t want to cry in front of my nine-year-old child because he cried himself to sleep last night, explaining to me that he was worried about undocumented children having to leave the country, walls splitting families apart, and wars. I tried to be calm and objective and to ground election material in course content,” shesaid. 

“Maybe this was the wrong approach,” Collins-Dogrul wenton to say, “I don’t know.  What I do know is that I had planned to share data on voting behavior if Clinton had won, in order to make the same case that race/ethnicity, education, gender, and income shape how we see the world and our behavior.  I hoped that this would resonate with students because we have been learning this all semester.”

By 11 a.m., approximately 25 students gathered next to The Rock to cry together and share their thoughts. As students walked by, they were asked to join. A crowd could be seen until the community forum in the library began at 4:30 p.m. 

At 12:34 p.m., Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) Director Jenny Guerra sent out a campus-wide email letting the community know that the OEI is a safe space for students and would be open before and after the forum. “Many of us will be negatively affected by these results,” Guerra wrote. “The Office of Equity and Inclusion stands in solidarity with, and will continue to advocate for, all marginalized communities: LGBTQIA+ students, undocumented students, people of color, Muslims, disabled students, and women. We recognize that students and campus community members may feel fearful about what is to come. Unfortunately, adversity is not new to our communities.” Guerra checked in throughout the day with those gathered by the Rock and brought pizza for them at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Many students expressed their dismay at the election results. “Last night, there were a lot of feelings of disappointment, disgust, shame, fear, sadness, nausea,” junior Erika Ngo said. “But waking up today, while those emotions still linger, there is now more anger and determination to fight back and support each other. I feel a newfound strength to be better and to work harder so that something like this won’t happen again — so that everyone will always have a voice, so that everyone will know that they matter.”

Several student Trump supporters said they weren’t comfortable sharing their opinions because of all the public displays of anger against Donald Trump. First-year Jeff Rusin said that being a Trump supporter here was difficult. “Today people have looked me in the eyes and said ‘I f*cking hate you’,” Rusin said. “Our country has decided this is where we stand. Just ignore these types of situations.”

Others felt more disillusioned than angry. “The fact that I grew up thinking that I wouldn’t have to deal with [racism] and now I have to ... It is extremely unsettling, and honestly, I planned to not to deal with this,” first-year Mason Hammond said. “Now I have to be a revolutionary.” 

First-year Caitlin Benge and her friend first-year Hattie Schultz drew venus signs on their faces to represent the pride they felt in their gender and to protest the treatment of women by Donald Trump.“I’m ashamed because there are people that support him,” Benge said. “I’m shocked that there is so much hate going on in a country that is capable of so much love. I can’t get my mind around it.” 

As a genderfluid transgender person, junior Nikki Knupp said Trump’s rhetoric and policies made her fear for the safety of the transgender community. “However, my first thought was this intense fear about the safety of my friends who are people of color, who are undocumented immigrants, who are out, femme transgender people, who are working class,” said Knupp. “In the trans community, there is a ridiculous difference in kinds of oppression that I face versus what trans people of color and working class trans people face.”

ASWC President senior Amer Rashid took to ASWC’s Twitter and Instagram accounts to reassure fellow students. “We would like to remind our consituents, the students at [a] diverse liberal arts college … that your livelihood and well-being matter to us,” Rashid wrote. “You matter to us. Your right to exist is of value to us. Your identity is legitimate to us.” 

Later that day, a drained and somber Rashid articulated the visceral pain felt by so many on our diverse campus. “As we’ve grown up, the picture of the world we were supposed to inherit looked very different than it does today,” said Rashid. “Today, the members of our generation are having to look at a very different reality than we thought we would see, growing up and coming to this election. It looks dark, but if any generation has the capability and the power to be able to truly mitigate the things we are seeing, it is [us].”