Last Wednesday’s Community Conversation concerning an election results from the previous night was met with the most boisterous, well-attended audience thus far. The debrief’s large attendance had been predicted on Wednesday morning and warranted a change in location from the Faculty Dining Room in Emerson Dining Hall to Cole Memorial Chapel, according to President Dennis Hanno.
Hanno provided introductory remarks, reassuring Wheaton’s administrative goal in remaining bipartisan in the student body’s diverse political affiliations. “The results of the election has caught everyone off guard,” said Hanno. “The one thing I think is important to start off this conversation with is that there are different views even on this campus, and we need to come together in a way that is respectful of those different views.”
Introductory statements from the faculty panel followed, consisting of Dean Kate Kenny, Provost Renee White, and Professor of Political Science Bradford Bishop. The panel served to provide information concerning safety at Wheaton, what can be improved and political knowledge of the factors that determined the current president-elect.
A majority of the Community Conversation mainly provided an outlet for students to express their frustrations, concerns and fears. “I am not only scared for myself, I am scared for my friends, my family, my neighbors,” said Cameron Adelman ’19. “I am scared for people of color and queer people, because the candidate we elected thinks that it’s okay to target people who he thinks are lesser than himself.”
Some students spoke of their undocumented family members and friends that fear that their United States residency will be threatened by the Trump administration.
Amongst the feelings of shock and resentment also came questions that challenged the audience’s conceptions of an America pre-Trump. “One of my questions is that is this outcome really shocking to you? …This has been happening from the get-go,” said Fatoumata Diallo ’19. “And Trump hasn’t come out of nowhere. It’s not like, ‘yeah, here’s this unknown racism and unknown prejudice that you never knew about.’ We all knew about it, it’s just now it’s blatantly present.”
Several others vocalized their experiences with threats on campus during the presidential campaign and after the election results were announced. One student announced that he had been called several racial slurs on campus, while an RA addressed the audience about an indigenous people’s poster board had been torn down on Tuesday night.
Opportunities of activism were also discussed during the Community Conversation. Sophia Darby ’17 challenged the transparency of Wheaton’s directory of funds and invited the Wheaton community to join her at the Lyon’s Den from 8-10 p.m. that night in order to discuss activism and action on campus. Associate Dean Denyse Wilhelm mentioned a millennial march that could be potentially organized as inauguration draws nearer.
The call for community unity was a significant trend throughout the debrief session. This unity either took the form of fighting against the powers at bay or bridging the divide between political extremes. “It’s not just ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ it’s about we,” one student said. “If we’re so divided, then we’re no better than them.”