Last week, the world watched as billionaire businessman Donald J. Trump became President-elect of the United States. According to CNN, the Republican candidate won with 290 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232, with Michigan still not called.
Reinhardt University also watched. Whether it was at their home, apartment, dorm or the watch party hosted on campus, many students, faculty and staff all anxiously watched the results stream in. When everyone awoke the next morning, the world was abuzz about the newly elected leader of the free world, and Reinhardt was not left out.
Social media activity surrounding the election was high. According to Facebook, 115.3 million people on the social network generated 716.3 million likes, posts, comments and shares related to the election. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the content of this activity was a mixture of positive and negative emotions.
“Trump brought out a lot of feelings in people, both very strongly negative and positive, as both candidates did,” Political Science Professor Dr. SimonPeter Gomez said. “One of the reasons we use [social media] is to connect with our like-minded communities. So, where else would you go? Facebook, Twitter, that’s the watercooler for the 21st century.”
Riots and protests also followed the election results. According to the New York Times, crowds gathered around Trump Tower in Manhattan, the home of Donald Trump, and shouted things like, “New York hates Trump.”
“We haven’t seen this before — where you have the results of an election and people are so upset that they’re taking to the streets and protesting. Trump hasn’t even taken office yet,” Gomez said.
These protests weren’t limited to New York. Many major cities across the country reported similar activity. Atlanta’s ABC affiliate WSB-TV reported over 100 protesters gathered in Piedmont Park before marching through the streets of midtown Atlanta.
Protests also took place on many college campuses, including Temple University, University of Massachusetts and University of Southern California, just to name a few. The Red & Black, an independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia, reported that about 60 protesters gathered around the arch in downtown Athens the night following the election.
Reinhardt did not experience any public protests.
“I think it’s partly the nature of the campus. I don’t think you have a campus where a lot of students feel connected and plugged in,” Gomez said. “Partly I think it is a function of size as well. But, I think it’s just as much the fact that Reinhardt students really don’t get upset, at least not that I’ve seen.”
The lack of protests might also be a result of there not being a lot of politically involved students on campus, according to Gomez.
“You have these large groups of students who are not generally politically engaged, for them, I don’t think the election really changed their day-to-day routine,” Gomez said.
Eric Morris, a senior marketing major, believes the lack of public protests on campus is indicative of our students respect for one another.
“I think Reinhardt students are rational. They understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they value the opinions of their peers, even if they conflict with their own. If the election didn’t go their way, they seem to accept that fact and they still support the democratic election process that exists,” Morris said.
The day following the election, many students were absent from class, and some professors were rumored to have canceled their classes.
Gomez suggested the cancellations were a result of the importance of the results.
“I wish we had a holiday on Election Day so that we wouldn’t have to [cancel class],” Gomez said, although he did not cancel class on Wednesday.
“I guess that’s what I’m taking from this, is people are finally realizing elections mean something. People win and people lose at the voting booth. That’s important and that has consequences. So the fact that people are paying attention, I think is wonderful,” Gomez said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing to cancel class the night after a major event like that. I think it just illustrates how important the event was.”
Gomez also said that it was also very possible that the professors were upset with the results of the election and needed time to process everything. However, he did add, “I haven’t noticed that there were bitter feelings en masse at the campus.”
Many people are afraid, and others are hopeful for the future a Trump presidency will bring.
“I think a lot of it had to do not with, I think, a fear of any specific thing Donald Trump will do, but more the distaste for endorsing someone that said things that would have gotten you or I fired from our jobs,” Gomez explained. “The fact that we lofted this individual up to the highest job you could have in this country, given that he said those things, a lot of people are legitimately upset about.”
However, statements resulting from frustration can also stem from people’s concerns about potential changes to laws and federal policies.
“What a lot of people fear, is this disregard for large segments of the United States. Many of these people are weak, they are vulnerable,” Gomez said. “So the protests I think are a fear over what will happen to these vulnerable people.”
Fear likely comes with not necessarily knowing what Trump will do, but in not knowing.
“Are we going to see the deportation force take the streets?” Gomez asked. “What’s going to happen to all of the undocumented immigrants that are at universities and at this university?”
In a CBS “60 Minutes” interview this past Sunday, Trump addressed the issues of deportation and immigration. He said that the government would prioritize removing criminals, a number that might be as high as 2 million or maybe three 3 million individuals.
“We’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally,” Trump said.
Kevin Appleby, senior director of International Migration Policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, said in a New York Times article that this massive removal would create a police state because of the necessity of using raids or sweeps to reach the numbers that Trump gave.
Currently, many undocumented immigrants are able to stay in the United States under requirements set forth by DACA, or Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012.
If a Trump administration repealed DACA, these immigrants would lose exemption from deportation to a government that would also have all of their identifying information.
Obama was asked about DACA and the immigrants affected by the executive order at a White House news conference.
“I will urge the president-elect and the incoming administration to think long and hard before they are endangering the status of what for all practical purposes are American kids,” Obama said.
One undocumented Reinhardt senior whose name we’ve withheld due to her immigration status expressed her uncertainty about the future under Trump’s leadership.
“For me, it was a time of stress and worry since I knew Trump wanted to take away DACA. DACA has been my angel and I am always so thankful to President Obama that he implemented. Before DACA I had no way of driving, I was not able to work and being independent seem very far away. Going to college was hard since I had no way of getting there by myself so I had to pay someone to take me to school every day and they could only pick me up when they could. Sometimes I would wait hours for them to get there, it was not great. Having DACA has allow me to drive, have a job and feel independent. Knowing that it could be taken away from me it’s very stressful and very sad, not knowing what is going to happen in my future,” the student said.
Another issue important for students and higher education is government loans and loan forgiveness.
Trump’s proposed plan would prevent payments on loans from exceeding 12.5 percent of the debtor’s income, and if they make the payments for 15 years, the remainder can be forgiven. This is only slightly different than REPAYE (Revised Pay As You Earn), the student loan repayment plan released late last year, which restricts payments to 10 percent and grants forgiveness after 20 years.
“Republicans have railed against the Obama administration’s expansion of income-driven repayment programs as fiscally irresponsible, yet the party’s nominee wants to lower the period of repayment, which is sure to cost the government quite a bit of money,” Danielle Douglas-Gabriel writes in a Washington Post article on the matter.
Gomez offers some advice for individuals scared or angered from the election results.
“Let’s just wait and see,” he said. “This is certainly not the end of the world. For those people that lost, governing is a lot harder than running for office and that’s going to condition people.”
Some fears may be warranted and some may not be, but only time will tell what a Trump presidency will bring to the United States and potentially the Reinhardt community.
Written By: Thomas May. Featured Image: Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.