Since the results of the election, students have spoken out from all ends of the political spectrum. To provide a platform for conversation for students, Kimberly Barrett, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of the Faculty, sent out a campus-wide email announcing an ‘Open Doors’ initiative on Jan. 20, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States.
Throughout the day, several offices across campus were open to students to discuss their feelings and reactions to the inauguration, both positive and negative.
Since the beginning of Trump’s campaign, some students have taken issue with his reputation for targeting minorities during his campaign, while others fully support his efforts to “make America great again.”
One of the open spaces for conversation was the Diversity Center. Chris Vue, the Diversity Center Coordinator, explained some of the concerns he has noticed from students, especially students of color.
“I think a lot of the students of color, [are] just looking at it like ‘we’ve gone so far,’” Vue commented. “Then, by electing someone who is blatantly saying [racist comments], and supporting this, these kinds of things, especially against people of color, then how far of a step are we taking back?”
With such a divisive election and presidency, students have struggled to find common ground. It can be hard to put one’s views aside and have an open, honest conversation, especially when many people’s rights and well-being are at stake.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” said Vue. “People, by saying that they support this or that [make it seem] like no matter which way you say you are for or against, depending on where you say it, how you say it [that] it will draw attention. So you just have to be really careful.”
Director of International Student Services Leah McSorley also opens the International House as an available space on Friday for conversation. Her comments shed some light on the international student perspective post-inauguration.
“I think the major question I’m hearing from the international student perspective is ‘how will this affect me,’ and what I say is, ‘right now, it is not very clear.’”
Trump’s negative attitudes toward foreigners and support for harsh immigration restrictions were big selling points in his campaign, raising questions for many as to what the future might hold.
“I think, as we’ve seen on the campaign trail, undocumented students may have different challenges than they’ve had over the last eight years,” explained McSorley, “which is why it is great that Lawrence has recommitted their standing behind their diversity and inclusivity in supporting undocumented students, professors and students from around the world.”
The Wellness Center was another space designated for the “Open Doors” initiative. Richard Jazdzewski, Associate Dean of Students for Health and Wellness, emphasized the importance of having a safe place to talk about the impact of the new presidency.
“In a time like this, when some students have been reacting very strongly to the negative potential of this election and the impact that it may have on people’s lives, we’re trying to make sure they have a place and space to talk,” he explained.
During a time when our country feels very divided by these issues, it is important to make an effort to engage both sides of the issue.
“As Director of Health and Counseling, I have to make sure that counseling can be able to be here for people with great anxiety and fears about [the inauguration], and we have to make sure that we hold a space for them and that we hold a space for the folks that are very excited about it,” Jazdzewski said.
Although the situation might feel very divided at the moment, efforts like these to engage in positive, honest conversation are a step in the right direction.