Five alumni in college were asked about how their campuses reacted to Donald Trump’s presidential election.
Connor Martin, ‘14, Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, New York)
“On Nov. 9, Jon Chenette, Vassar’s interim president, sent an email to the student body about how Vassar students should try to respond to the election results. Chenette also encouraged students to seek counseling services and class advisor support in the Dean of Studies’ Office:
We have just been through a contentious, troubling and hard-fought election season, among the most consequential in recent history. For many members of our community, its aftermath brings grief, anger, sadness or disappointment. For all, it brings exhaustion.
The rhetoric of xenophobia, racism, homophobia, misogyny and other forms of hate can (neither) triumph in our society nor have a place on our campus. We must strive to be a place that can accept and indeed embrace differences in values and political orientations.
“(Chenette) has also released an email to the faculty asking them to excuse absences and late work for the time being as a result of the election outcome.
“Last night students organized a ‘primal scream’ (in) the quad at 2 a.m. It’s normally a tradition reserved for the start of final exams, but students felt that a good collective screaming session was appropriate. I was awoken at 3 a.m. by yells and anti-Trump chants echoing across campus. I myself had to take a quadruple dose of melatonin so that I could fall asleep.
“Many students all over campus have been publicly sobbing in and out of class, and quite a few are dressed in all black.
“My Chinese class this morning was essentially a crying session. And my course material for my political science class tomorrow has been suspended to talk about the election during class.
“Various student organizations and academic departments have organized gatherings to commiserate and discuss the election outcomes.
“It’s so somber here. The weather is also overcast and rainy, which suits the quietness and sadness that everyone on campus is expressing.”
Emma Williams, ‘15, Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
“The reaction has been immense and very emotional on campus.
“Just for some background, Cornell (and Ithaca in general) is a strong blue dot in a sea of red in upstate New York. The majority of Cornell students lean left, and even those who aren’t Democrats weren’t likely to support Trump. In fact, the Cornell Republicans were one of the first college Republican groups to endorse Gary Johnson over Trump.
“The mood on campus today has definitely been more somber than usual. There are very few people that are actually happy about the result (though some do prefer Trump to Clinton). Nearly every conversation seems to focus on the election results, and tears aren’t uncommon.
“Actually, there was a ‘cry-in’ today on campus where, I assume, students went to mourn what happened. I didn’t actually go, but I saw the event on Facebook.
“I’ve also been getting emails throughout the day from my residence hall director and various administrators informing me of resources on campus (where I can) talk about how the results have affected me.
“I just got out of my Introduction to American Government and Politics lecture, where we spent the whole hour and 15 minutes talking about the election results – how the polls could have been so misleading and what implications this result will have on our futures. As the professor of this class began, she told us about how she had been conflicted from the beginning of the semester (about) how to talk about Trump in the class. Clearly the election is an important part of the American governmental process, but he’s such an unconventional candidate in so many ways that she was conflicted as to the extent she should cover him in particular. So she didn’t spend a lot of time talking about him and really only referenced him during the civil rights and liberties lectures.
“Today, though, she began by saying that today was basically a turning point in democracy and that she didn’t know what the future would be like right now. I may have imagined it, but I think she might have been tearing up at the beginning. She ended the lecture by quoting a Tuskegee airman about striving for the ideals of our country and emphasizing the importance of unity in the face of such division.
“A lot of people aren’t just sad, but angry too. I happen to be good friends with the president of the Cornell Republicans, and she told me around noon that she had already been yelled at by three strangers who viewed her as part of the problem. She also told me that most of her classes today were canceled as a result of the election results and that she had one teacher start crying during class. So I think it’s safe to say that emotions are running high, and it definitely has not been a conventional day.”
Garrett Kaighn, ‘14, Columbia University (New York City)
“Columbia is pretty overwhelmingly liberal, so the Trump victory has been met with pretty unanimous despair.
“I haven’t talked to almost anyone at all since the election was officially called. My friends and I went to bed when things started to look unwinnable but before anything was official. I personally went to bed around when Pennsylvania started to turn toward Trump. So much of what I know about student reactions comes from various emails and our own newspaper.
“Columbia has a substantial activist population, and I know many people have been really hurt by this, even though I haven’t talked to many directly.
“Students started gathering on campus around 1 a.m. last night to collectively cry (literally) about the results.
“Many professors canceled midterms that were scheduled for today. Other students complained that their midterms weren’t canceled. I think Barnard students petitioned to have class canceled entirely, but were not successful. The student council groups are working to advocate for students who need homework extensions or similar because they feel the news is getting in the way of their work.
“The dean of engineering emailed us, stating that accommodations would be available and handled on a case-by-case basis. I’m not sure if liberal arts students received a similar email, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The university president also sent out an email to the whole school addressing, though somewhat superficially, the results and (their) impact on the community.
“There are also plenty of groups, both student groups and official organizations like Columbia Psychological Services, that have scheduled reflection sessions and made available extra times for students who need support.
“Everybody reacts differently, and life continues as usual for most people. Today’s sudden rainy weather I think well reflects the mood. The community is definitely making a substantial effort to support those who are most affected and hurt by the election results.
“Columbia students range politically from firmly liberal to aggressively activist, and our bubble of isolation was certainly popped (by) Trump’s victory.”
Kamira Patel, ‘14, University of California, Davis
“I’m sure you’re not surprised that a lot of people at UC Davis are extremely shocked and, quite frankly, frustrated (by) the results of the election.
“I believe there was a protest last night on campus, as many students marched through the streets expressing their lack of support for Donald Trump.
“I have been inundated with emails from teachers as well as our interim chancellor regarding the elections. Many are reminding students of mental health facilities on campus and general support of the staff.
“Last night I went to one of my classes and my teacher canceled class because many students were so upset that they couldn’t focus, and she also moved our essay deadline due to the election results, as she was sympathetic to many who were too emotional to work.
“Also today in the main quad there was a fairly large protest. I couldn’t tell how many, that were yelling ‘F–k Donald Trump!’ I imagine that these protests will soon die down, but currently there is a lot of fear.
“Needless to say there is a lot of concern regarding our new president and what is to come in the next four years. There’s a lot of emotions on campus right now and a lot of frustration from both the students and teachers.”
Micaela Bennett-Smith, ‘15, Occidental College (Eagle Rock)
“Like many liberal arts colleges, Occidental is in a very emotional state.
“For many of us on campus, the results of the election have illuminated a very ugly side of America that many people have denied or tried to ignore.
“For me and many people I know, classes were canceled, midterms rescheduled (and) teachers and students cried in class together.
“It was a harsh awakening.”
Ryan Ho, ‘14, New York University (New York City)
“As you know, New York University is as liberal as it gets. I mean, Madonna had an impromptu concert at Washington Square Park (where NYU is) rallying for Hillary that night. So naturally the news was utterly devastating to just about everyone here.
“On the night of the election, I remember looking out of my window and watching an obvious Clinton-supporting election viewing party from across the street going from cheerful to absolutely silent.
“My roommates and I were so shocked because all the media predictions had assured a comfortable, if not easy, win for Clinton. As the night went on, more and more of the people I know here were posting on Facebook about how unbelievable the result was becoming. Everyone was stunned.
“When it became apparent that Trump was going to win, my RAs sent out an email telling the residents that things will be okay, that they were here if we wanted to talk, and gave us the number to the NYU Wellness Exchange Hotline.
“The day after, while I can’t speak for the whole campus, I thought everyone seemed defeated. My friend’s lecture was missing half of its students, and the professor was apparently super understanding and went on to allow students to talk about the election. Students were missing, too, in my creative writing class and a lot of them didn’t do the assigned reading, but again the professor was understanding and forgave them.
“The professors in general didn’t voice their own opinions, though many gave hints as to who they supported. On Facebook, there was a barrage of posts ranging from “What have you done, America?” to “Well, this election gave me a good idea as to whom to burn off the family tapestry” to “It’s going to be okay, and we’ll get through it together.” The president (of the university) this morning just sent out an email about the aftermath, too.
“Something I was surprised to see was a picture on Facebook posted by the NYU Muslim Students Association. The post explained that someone had graffitied ‘Trump’ on the door of their prayer room. Personally, I thought that was incredibly hateful and uncharacteristic of this school, but at least the comment section was full of people saying how sorry they were and how they would stand in solidarity with them.
“I also know of friends who participated in the anti-Trump rallies happening in Union Square and in front of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.”
—By Sonja Hansen