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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

‘Making Sense of the Presidential Election’ event causes mixed reactions on campus

Graphic by Krista Jaworski ’17

By Max Rosenfeld ’20.

When members of the Saint Joseph’s University community arrived at a post-election event in Campion Student Center last Thursday, they were given instructions on how to have a productive dialogue to react to post-election responses.

The instructions suggested that the audience listen respectfully, speak respectfully, avoid attempts to convert one another’s views, and refrain from personal attacks.

The Nov. 10 event, “Making Sense of the Presidential Election,” had been planned two weeks before the results of last week’s election, said Monica Nixon, Ed.D., assistant provost for Inclusion and Diversity.

Nixon said she came up with the idea for the event because she figured there would be a lot to digest—no matter the result.

While the room in Doyle Banquet Hall South in the Campion Student Center was filled to capacity with faculty, staff, and students wanting to process the results of the election, Nixon said she also received multiple emails and calls from people upset about the wording of her invitation to the event, which references “historical legacies of racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, and classism.”

Many of the respondents thought Nixon’s wording reflected a bias in favor of Hillary Clinton and suggested the message would not have been sent, or would have been worded differently, if Clinton had won.

Nixon said she was taken aback by the critiques she received of the email, which she sent the morning of the event.

“My intention was to write it so that no matter which candidate won I could have sent the same message out,” she said.

Nixon’s email, citing a “divided nation with very different ideas about what progress means,” went on to urge members of the St. Joe’s community to “be kind, to listen for understanding and to avoid explaining away that which makes us uncomfortable.”

For Nixon, the hard part is now cultivating an open-minded environment. With robustly opposing views in contention, the task is not an easy one, she said.

“The whole election season has really widened, or certainly exposed, pretty big rifts in how people approach the world,” said Nixon. “All sides of this, and there aren’t just two sides, there are many sides, I think they feel as though they are not being heard. And if you aren’t being heard, it probably makes you not want to listen.”

Nixon said members of the university community need to avoid what she calls a “reductionist impulse” in which people are identified by a narrow set of opinions and consolidate their peers into factions.

The more challenging and appropriate way to approach political interactions is with intellect and understanding as opposed to vitriolic bouts of anger, she said. For many students, it’s not an easy response, but it’s an important one.

Vilma Fermin, ’20, said while she supported Clinton during the election process, she is adamant about fostering a setting that is welcoming of all political beliefs.

“I think it’s important to listen to each other and not just assume that because someone voted for Trump or for Hillary that they are automatically a bad person,” she said.

Fermin said that as a woman and minority, she knows that’s not a simple task.

“It’s disappointing because Trump ran on a bigoted platform,” she said. “But still, it’s important that we rally together because at the end of the day we are all rooting for the success of our country.”

John Thompson, ’20, a Trump supporter who said he values Democratic points of view, said accepting differences is key.

“Each person has their own opinions and is entitled to them, and as a community we have to accept that,” Thompson said.

On Monday Nov. 14, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., sent an email to the St. Joe’s community that he said was the result of weekend reflection, “to encourage us to move forward peacefully, respectfully, and compassionately.”

Reed made further remarks to foster community growth.

“We must understand that our own community on Hawk Hill includes those who are celebrating the victory of the candidate they supported, those who are grieving and sense a true loss, and, regrettably, those who feel scared, uncomfortable, and even unsafe,” Reed wrote. “Let us face our challenges honestly, openly address what may be uncomfortable and not miss the chance to grow as a community and emerge even stronger.”

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