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Colleges react to a Trump Presidency

Last Tuesday’s election has shaken high schools across Southern California. But how are colleges in the rest of the nation responding? To find out, I interviewed five freshmen at colleges across the United States: M. at Columbia University, C. at Vanderbilt University, L. at Bates College, H. at Saint Louis University, and N. at Duke University. 

Note: Students interviewed in this story wished to stay anonymous, therefore letters were assigned to each interviewees. 

Various college students commented on their reactions to the Trump presidency. Many college students–and Americans–didn’t expect that a Trump win was possible. To work toward victory, many students canvassed, traveling to nearby swing states.

Protesters at Vanderbilt University. Photo by C., a Vanderbilt student.

The result made election night an even bigger shock. L. described that “Tuesday night was a very somber night for our school. Nearly every student was up until 4 a.m., waiting to hear election results.” Afterward, this shocked reaction was even more clear. M. described Columbia as having “exploded”; C. noted at Vanderbilt that “It felt on Wednesday like a student had died.”

The reactions weren’t just from the students, though. Professors reworked lectures to address the electoral surprise.

Protests at Vanderbilt University. Photo by C., a Vanderbilt student.

Many professors decided to have intellectual conversations about the election, noted N. at Duke and C. at Vanderbilt. Some took a more emotional approach.

A M. noticed that her “professors postponed exams, canceled classes, or cried in class” at Columbia.

N. remembered that his professors at Duke said “they were there for us to talk about how we felt about the election. One of my professors said he was there for whatever we want and whatever we need.”

The Bates school administration also worked toward student health, providing open spaces, discussion, and a candlelit vigil, according to L. “Centers like our chapel, multi faith chaplaincy, deans offices, etc have been open all week for students to drop in and talk about whatever they’re feeling.”

At Saint Louis University, H. noticed that “The counseling center was filled up the day after the election.”

A police officer at Vanderbilt University. Photo by C., a Vanderbilt student.

These strong reactions stem from the fact that Trump is a candidate unlike any other. He’s said shocking, racist, sexist, ableist, and cruel things. He’s suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He’s quoted in a 1991 book as telling a colleague that “laziness is a trait in blacks.” He advocated assassinating terrorists’ families. 

Some Republican students felt nervous about the reaction from the election. Colleges tend to slant liberal, and some felt that Trump supporters were unfairly targeted on campus.

N. from Duke University noted that “Trump supporters on campus were stigmatized from the beginning. In one of my classes, in which one of my good conservative friends is in, the professor unceasingly bashed Trump and by extension some of his supporters all class, assuming everyone in the room was anti-Trump.”

H. on the Saint Louis University campus noticed that “I will also say that there has been a lot of Hillary supporters who now refuse to speak to any Republicans on campus.”

At Vanderbilt, C. observed that “Republican students have also faced harassment on campus (whether they were Trump supporters or not).”

Protesters at Vanderbilt University show their support for the LGBT community. Photo by C., a Vanderbilt student.

Though most Republicans can be assured that the future president won’t take their rights away, others are less certain. N. at Duke summed this up by saying that “A lot of people are in fear, especially considering the fact that there will be a KKK victory parade on Dec. 3rd.” 

A Vanderbilt University student protests, with a sign that reads “Grandma fled a dictatorship, I won’t. These streets are MINE.” Photo by C., a Vanderbilt University student.

In four years, the college freshman interviewed for this article will have graduated. In four years, Trump will have finished his first term as president. What will have changed in the United States by then is up to both student activists and how the president reacts.

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