What Now? Election Night at AU and What’s to Follow
Bianca Pergher | 11/18/16 7:03am
| Updated 11/18/16 7:04am
Jaclyn Merica / American Word Magazine
On the night of Nov. 8, students and faculty anxiously gathered at AU’s School of International Service for its election event. Students piled up on the orange couches to watch extensive media coverage of the results. Cardboard cutouts of the presidential candidates with dress-up items lined the back of the building as attendees browsed food and refreshments.
Despite the seriousness of the election, students snapchatted the event, which featured a live DJ. Artists ranged from 50 Cent to Coldplay and offered a casual, light-hearted way to celebrate the election. Students in support of both candidates were able to come together to enjoy the event despite their differences.
While conversing with friends at the event, freshman Kwesi Billups remarked that it received a wide turn-out. “It’s a chill feel,” Billups said, “I feel very comfortable in this space right now. Many college campuses have been experiencing issues with expressing their feelings on campus but this seems like an open space. I feel like I’m able to express my views as well as who I am.”
In addition to heavy turnout from freshmen and sophomores, graduate students also participated in the event. Grad student Farhan Chughtai noticed that “People are really into the idea of coming together to celebrate this.,” said grad student Farhan Chughtai. “It’s amazing given the polarization this election has had, it’s divided everybody. I’m sure there are a lot of Trump supporters here and a lot of Hillary supporters as well, but everyone’s having a good time. At the end of the day, we’re going to have a winner. No one’s talking about politics anymore, everyone’s waiting for the results and then we’re going to move on, united.”
For incoming freshman, this election marked an important time on campus and in Washington, D.C. Though many students stayed on campus, others ventured off in groups to protest Trump’s presidency in front of the White House.
Students from states like Pennsylvania and Ohio were anxious as results were rolling in. Other students from less competitive states enjoyed watching all of the action. “I’m excited to be in place like this where people care about this election,” said freshman Alice Upton. “I’m from a solid blue state, so it’s not that exciting for my state either but I still was excited to vote and participate on AU’s campus. It’s our first election and it’s been the most polarized, crazy election in recent history. It’s a really important time to exercise our right and have a say on campus.”
While many were excited to be celebrating their first election experience in D.C., some sophomores and juniors weren’t feeling as enthusiastic. Despite AU’s politically driven campus, most students were thrilled to see this election come to an end. Sophomore Spencer Pixley said he felt the election had lasted far too long. “It’s dominated this campus and it’s hard to get away from it,” Pixley continued.
As someone who supported neither candidate, Pixley said he felt apathetic to the election. “Because I have no horse in this race, it’s really entertaining and sad to see how this election went on. It’s been controversy after controversy. I don’t think it [elections] will be the same again. I’ll feel less affected for future elections because of how Trump has shaped this one. He’s opened the door to people outside of this field and now, anyone can run.”
Freshman Miles Boynton wondered about the implications of a Trump presidency., “We’re at the point now where it’s been such a long election, we’ve seen Republican candidates drop-out and concede and we’ve been appalled and laughed at how Trump has gotten this far. We’re at the moment where we’ve laughed and now it’s real. We’re all kind of holding our breaths.”
When asked what they would do if Trump was elected president, many students laughed and said they’d undergo at least several hours of shock before proceeding to possibly egg the Trump Hotel. Boynton said he would “definitely take a stand if Trump tries to carry out certain policies that hurt minorities or LGBTQ communities. Instead of fighting him, we’ll have to work through it to get anything done.”
While many seem hopeful they could endure Trump’s presidency, others, like freshman Linie Liaquat are not so optimistic. “Trump won’t listen to us despite our protests,” she said, “he will stick to his guns.” For AU’s predominantly liberal campus, Trump’s win hasn’t settled well students. According to many, Trump’s amassing of national support has left many students them bewildered and distraught.
During the election watch party, sophomore Afreen Tharani stated, “as an AU student, I can totally feel the vibe of the upcoming election. You get a strong feeling on campus from students. It’s amazing to see how D.C reacts and how university kids from D.C. react. My mom immigrated here so me and my sister are first generation but Trumps speeches mirror Hitler’s ideas and as a history student, I see these disturbing echoes. These thoughts shouldn’t be around today; they shouldn’t be getting this much support. I’m so concerned that even if Trump loses, he’s already started a movement that undermines the core values of the U.S. We’re going to have to make America great again from the wreck he’s pulling us into. Look at the state of U.S relations around the world right now, even international students here are worried. It’s such a dynamic response that I didn’t even know was possible!”
The day following the election, a protest demonstration was held outside of MGC. A small group of students began burning an American flag, which received a variety of responses from military students, African-American students, and international students on campus.
While watching the demonstration, Dullah Hassan condemned the flag burning. “As a Muslim and a refugee, obviously Trump was not my ideal candidate but this is happening and we need to move on,” Hassan said. “Being scared is okay but being angry isn’t going to fix anything. The burning of the flag is causing more division so I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s also because we’re in D.C. that this response is heightened. I’m scared for my family that wears hijabs. I don’t believe Trump will be able to put in place the policies he’s been preaching. This protest is causing more hatred and division. We can’t change what happened.”
Many believe the burning of the flag was an overreaction that divided the campus. When asked if AU’s reaction to the election largely depended on the fact that it’s located in D.C., a student remarked that “it’s happening on a lot of college campuses but maybe not to the same extent. This isn’t going to end any time soon,” they continued. “Now it’s not just about who won the presidency, students are attaching other titles and issues to this election. They’re attaching the racial backgrounds of supporters to their candidates. The idea is that if you’re a white male, you should feel indifferent because you won’t be negatively affected by Trump’s presidency. But in terms of the demonstration, it’s just disrespectful to burn a flag because of the people who have died fighting for it.”
While emotions and tensions remain high on campus, students have now moved to discussing election reactions in calm classroom settings. Though many students are uneasy, they’ve relied on their friends for support and continue to take pride in the fact that AU offers them a place to voice their opinions. With calls to move forward and organize strategically, it won’t be long before students begin peaceful protests and other forms of resistance against the nation’s recently elected president.