By Sam Phillips
Students gathered outside Kilcawley Center to paint the rock with messages of support for groups who feel they may be marginalized under President-elect Donald Trump.
Following the rock painting, students gathered in the Chestnut Room to express their concerns about the election results. Faculty, staff and administration were present to provide support and gauge students’ feelings.
Snjezana Balaz, professor of physics, helped organize the event and moderated the discussion. She said not feeling safe can affect a student’s academic performance.
“If you are not relaxed in a classroom, you will not be able to learn because your brain is focused on your surroundings and trying to survive, and you aren’t doing any type of learning,” she said.
Students shared stories of mistreatment on campus since the election, primarily regarding minorities.
Catherine Cooper, member of the Latino Association, said she has seen many people upset about their treatment since the election.
“For me, I feel a loss because of what occurred in this election,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of issues in my family regarding immigration that deeply affected me.”
Mary Bell, post-baccalaureate student, said she would like to see university leaders acknowledge the hate crimes that have occurred across the country, including on campuses. The Southern Poverty Law Center has verified more than 300 hate crimes.
“I would like to see President Tressel make a statement, to be proactive and acknowledge these things are happening and will not be accepted on campus,” she said. “If and when there are violations, we want to see some sort of consequences that have teeth, so they are settled immediately.”
Student Conduct Director Kelly Beers assured her that the administration will take reports of any incidents very seriously.
Some students expressed their concerns about Donald Trump’s past accusations of sexual assault. They shared testimonies of past assaults, and suggested the election results show that Americans are apathetic about sexual assaults.
Students who are transgender are worried about being able to change documents or obtain medical treatment and sexual reassignment surgery once Trump’s presidency starts, according to Kai Parker of YSUnity.
“Some people are afraid of even trying to start transitioning. Some people are talking about self-harm because that’s the way they know to handle the stress, worry and fear,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”
Ana Torres, interim director of Maag Library, said that many people on campus are willing to provide support for anyone feeling negative emotions after the election.
“I’m standing here as your advocate. We’re here to support you,” she said. “We all have a voice, and we have to unite. I don’t want to see us fighting.”
Some students brought up comments made by faculty and staff. Students said it’s important to acknowledge they have political differences, but shouldn’t fight against each other, especially in class.
A professor expressed her concern toward the attitudes some people have about immigration. She said the system is broken, and people should try to understand that there isn’t a line for immigrants who want to become citizens or obtain green cards.
One man said he’s been an activist for marriage equality over the past five years. He said he believes Trump doesn’t want to repeal marriage equality, but if he appoints a Supreme Court Justice that holds those beliefs, Trump can’t change that.
Before the event, several counter-protestors showed up holding signs with slogans reading “real life has no safe zones” and “safety pins are for diapers.” Peaceful discussions took place between them and the students gathered to oppose Trump.
Taylor Sommers, a member of Turning Point USA, said he doesn’t believe campuses should have safe zones.
“In the real world, you can’t run from your problems,” he said. “Open discussion is key. If there’s something you don’t like, talk to others about it.”
Math Professor Alicia Prieto-Langarica helped organize the event. She said it’s good to have both supporters and protesters show up, because open discussions lead to progress.
“We want to portray a sense of unity and inclusiveness,” she said. “I feel like students should have a space to communicate about how they feel about these things, and a space in which they know whatever side of the story they’re on — they can be heard with respect.”
It’s interesting that the counter-protestors came out in support of “open discussion” and protesting “safe zones” because if I recall correctly, only 2 of them actually came inside to listen to the discussion part, and neither of them raised their hand, stood up, or contributed anything at any point. They just sat in the back and whispered to each other the whole time. Funny how you would invest all that time into making those signs and coming out to “demonstrate,” but then not even participate in the discussion. Guess it would have been inconvenient to contradict your “whiny, intolerant, safe-space loving liberals!!!” narrative, and God forbid you go back to your buddies at Turning Point and tell them that we were all perfectly decent, logical, rational people having an honest discussion.
As of November 15, SPLC has identified 437 reports of hateful harassment and intimidation between Wednesday, November 9, and Monday, November 14, including 11 in Ohio and 19 in Pennsylvania.
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