Skidmore's Post-Election Reactions

Skidmore's Post-Election Reactions

On November 9th, Skidmore’s campus went quiet. Classes were cancelled and assignments were postponed with the collective intention of healing. Of course, not every student felt this, but there was an undeniable sense of distress on campus after Donald Trump became the President-Elect.

This widespread reaction speaks to the unusual nature of this election. With so many students in a state of utter disbelief, we must primarily consider why we feel so surprised. Is there a disconnect in our nation? Are we truly listening to each other?

We also need to acknowledge our strong feelings of fear. President Trump is not looking out for every American, nor is he considering every person. This fear is rooted in the unedited character of President Trump and his racist, sexist, oppressive words that have hurt not only many Americans, but people around the world as well.

No matter your political beliefs or the candidate you voted for, these reactions are valid and important to consider in depth. The way we respond to Trump’s presidency is a powerful measure of current issues in the United States and what we are doing to address them.

Student groups got together after November 8th to discuss the election's implications and Skidmore's response to it. Some gatherings focused on the concerns of particular subgroups of people who feel directly targeted by President Trump; there were events held by and for international students, students of color and the LGBTQA+ community.  The Student Affairs staff also attended these events to provide additional support.

The Tang Teaching Museum served as a central location for debate and discussion both before and after the election. Leading up to November 8th, the Tang featured an exhibit called, “A More Perfect Union” by Director Ian Berry and Mel Ziegler. This atypical exhibit was framed more as an auditorium space, with American flags hanging from the ceiling and chairs surrounding the center podium. There was nothing on the walls, nor was there any conventional “art piece” that would ordinarily be found in a museum exhibit. Instead, the exhibit acted as an open space for election-related events.

Faculty, student groups and guest speakers were invited to use the exhibit as they wanted. Several faculty and guest lectures took place in the exhibit, as well as debate and election night watch parties. Even the city of Saratoga hosted a city meeting in the space for a charter review, and the Tang partnered with a community arts foundation: ArtsFest Fridays.  The foundation's “Dear America” program hosted local musicians, artists, and historical reenactors.

Students who watched the election night unfold in the Tang were comforted by the presence of hundreds of peers. The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life collaborated with the Tang to provide a space within the museum on election night for students who needed to step away. This space provided cards, tips and tools for stress reduction, meditation, and prayer. These cards were also found throughout Skidmore’s Wilson Chapel and Case Center to ensure students’ widespread access to much-needed stress relief. Students also sought comfort in Skidmore’s Counseling Center.

After the election, the Tang continued along this political vein with a pop-up class discussing its repercussions. Each of these events allowed for a welcoming, shared space of invaluable political discussion at Skidmore.

Parker Diggory, the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, noticed that a majority of students sought peer consolation, wanting to process the election together. There were also many who needed to get away from it entirely, seeking to separate themselves from this new political reality. Diggory observed, “I think many of us cycle between those needs.”

Numerous events, lectures and resources, in addition to collaboration among faculty, staff, and students, demonstrate that Skidmore did not take this election lightly. However, would Skidmore have responded in this way if the election went differently? Would the majority of Skidmore students feel a need to heal and come together, or seek ways to step away, if Trump had lost?

How Skidmore responded to this election speaks to its overall controversial and startling nature. Hopefully the results of this election will remind us as a nation to fully listen and pay attention to our fellow Americans, while pushing us to stand up for what we believe in, communicate effectively, and come together within our communities. How Skidmore responded across campus should give us hope for this.

Diggory notes, “We are not a homogenous community, but I hope that the kind of mutual care I saw in those post-election gatherings is indicative of how we will move forward: listening to each other and taking each other’s experiences seriously.”

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