Professors’ views on the 2016 election in the classroom setting

Chelsea Dua entered Intro to Women’s Studies class the day after the election full of outrage and despair.

“Words cannot begin to express how frustrated I am that we have become so selfish and ignorant as a country,” said Chelsea Dua, an Intro to Women’s Studies student. “I cannot sit here and support a man who is about to strip women of their reproductive rights and ultimately control of their bodies. I cannot sit here and support an overtly racist candidate who will continue to ignore the cries of the silenced Asian, African American, Muslim, Latino, LGBTQ and other minority-based candidates.”

Women’s Studies classes were on the wired side regarding reactions to the election results.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2016, America elected a new president: Donald Trump. News of Trump becoming president generated a variety of reactions from people across the country, especially from professors and students here at Marist College.

The moment Trump was declared the winner, society shifted. Marist College, although not heavily affiliated with politics, experienced different levels of hysteria depending on the classroom setting this past Wednesday.

“We have to reach out to other students and faculty, we have to change Marist’s culture,” said Dr. Kristin Bayer, assistant professor of history.

The Intro to Women’s Studies professor and students did not shy away from their feelings of defeat and fear for the future of America. This class in particular, since it places its focus on the intersectionality of race, class, and gender issues, openly discussed the repercussions of electing Trump as president.

“We are all traumatized by the election,” said Bayer. “We can’t reproduce structures of oppression, we need to address issues of race and sexuality.”

The Intro to Women’s Studies students, as well Dr. Bayer, were concerned about the status and rights of women in America with Trump as president.

“I am genuinely scared for the future, and realize only time will tell,” said Dua.

The department of environmental science felt a similar concern for the future of environmental policy within America.

“There will be environmental repercussions without active environmental leadership in our country,” said Dr. Richard Feldman, associate professor of environmental science.

Other fields of study, such as business, were not as open when it came to conversing about politics. The school of management preferred to keep the classroom setting completely professional and refrained from discussing the election during class time.

“I do not discuss politics at work, especially not with my classes,” said Dr. Elizabeth F. Purinton-Johnson, department chair of organization and the environment for the school of management.

It is understandable why certain professors chose not to discuss politics in their classrooms. Politics are a sensitive subject, and hostile arguments may arise when opinions differ.

The department of political science on the other hand, had strong viewpoints regarding the election and held a discussion about the results and the implications Trump’s presidency had on America.

“We are all open here, this is a place of free-flowing discussion,” said Dr. Lynn Mills Eckert, associate professor of political science.

Dr. Mills, along with several other faculty members at Marist College, encouraged student-participation and opinions regarding the 2016 election in their classrooms.

“We need to step out of our comfort zone, we encouraged students not to be silenced,” said Dr. Janine Peterson, associate professor of history.

Students appreciated the chance to discuss politics and their opinions within the classroom setting, especially those who felt personally victimized by Trump.

“Student’s didn’t grow up talking about politics and they don’t know how to address it in the classroom,” said Dr. Justin Myers, assistant professor of sociology. “In my classes, I tried to de-politicize our discussions to get them to discuss the tactics and strategies they could utilize to move forward instead of trying to shift their opinions.”

Discussing politics during class consoled those devastated by the results of the election and reinforced messages of stability to the students.

“We have to change the culture under these circumstances and be more active than anticipated, said Dr. Martha Garcia, assistant professor of social work.

Although discussing politics within the classroom can make people uncomfortable, real issues need to be addressed to establish change on more than just an intellectual level.

“Professors were just as disoriented and confused by the election as students were,” said Dr. Steven Garabedian, assistant professor of history. “The normal classroom approach is under scrutiny, the question of whether or not to devote class time to discussing the election was up to the students.”

Professors feared discussing the election because it could impact their career and they didn’t know what type of response to expect from students.

“Bringing up politics in the classroom could jeopardize my position,” said Dr. Patricia Ferrer-Medina, assistant professor of spanish. “We don’t all have the luxury of doing so.”

Both faculty and students were afraid of talking across boundaries and voicing their beliefs. The need for some form of outlet to determine how people were dealing with the election was a primary concern of professors.

“Students have a lot of power, but communication on this campus is atrocious,” said Dr. Eileen Curley, associate professor of english. “If students do not communicate with us, we have no idea how they are dealing or what is going on.”

According to students, the majority of their classes did not touch upon the election. The lack of communication and free speech on campus are issues the Student Government Association needs to address sooner rather than later in hopes of making inclusive changes.

The most important move now is to find ways to bring people together and find ways to talk to people who differ. America needs to stand together or else it is headed down a divisive path.

“The country as a whole may come out of this election okay, but there are individuals or groups of people who won’t, said Myers. “We need to stick up for them.”

America is at an obvious crisis point right now, and establishing alliances among faculty members and fellow peers can greatly diminish the divide the world is beginning to experience with Trump as president.

“We’re here to work with you, and we’re scared too,” said Ferrer-Medina.

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