Vassar community expresses pain at disturbing election

(From left to right) Vassar first-years William Dwyer, Sana Zaidi, Isabelle Hart and Sam O’Keefe protest Donald Trump’s presidential election last Friday night at a rally in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Mackail Liederman
(From left to right) Vassar first-years William Dwyer, Sana Zaidi, Isabelle Hart and Sam O’Keefe protest Donald Trump’s presidential election last Friday night at a rally in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Mackail Liederman
(From left to right) Vassar first-years William Dwyer, Sana Zaidi, Isabelle Hart and Sam O’Keefe protest Donald Trump’s presidential election last Friday night at a rally in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Mackail Liederman

“I had hoped that on Nov. 9, I could call my grandma who supported Hillary since be­fore she was First Lady, and tell her that we made it happen. We were a part of the movement that elected the first female president of the U.S.”

For May Venkat ’20 of Akron, OH, Tuesday night began with high hopes. She began the night in her room watching the election broadcast on her phone. As the results began pouring in, she went to be with the rest if her friends in Main. She stayed up, in front of the TV, until Trump’s accep­tance speech at 2:45 a.m.

“I am deeply saddened as a person of color and a woman that such a heinous man was elected to our highest office. As an Indian, I mourned because in my eyes…our country was moving backwards and this could only cause more problems for me and my family,” Venkat said. “I asked myself and my family for advice on how to go on. How would life change for me? A man who has been accused of sexual assault is now been rewarded with the most powerful and prestigious seat of influence in the American political system.”

Isabelle Hart ’20 echoed Venkat’s grievances, saying that the results came as a complete shock. “I think that initially I thought it was some huge joke. I was waiting for Trump to interrupt the news and tell everyone that this entire election was a public­ity stunt. Once it sunk in I think I mainly felt the waves of sexism that I’ve been experiencing since I became a preteen. Hillary’s loss isn’t all because of gender, but for the first couple of days I couldn’t stop thinking that if she were a white man, she would have won.”

Living part of the year in the “Vassar bubble,” students often become detached from the political climates of their hometowns. This election served for many as a jarring reminder of nationwide schisms.

Venkat was relieved that she did not see the results from her home state of Ohio come in live. “I have a lot of state pride, I loved my childhood growing up in Ohio. But, after hearing that my state went for Trump by more than 5 points I was left with complete embarrassment and anger,” Venkat said.

She continued, “My state voted for a man who supports taking away my right to privacy, my fam­ily’s rights as people of color and the pride I have for being a child of immigrants. My state voted for a man who wants to rid the country of people with ties to the Middle East. My state voted against me.”

With Thanksgiving coming up, Venkat admitted that returning home to Ohio will be difficult: “It hurt and I am sure that this Thanksgiving will be difficult. I will be going home, but now it is a place that leaves me feeling guilty and angry.”

However, Venkat believes there is no better place to be during Trump’s presidency than at Vas­sar. “I am so lucky to take a political science class here at Vassar. Professor [Sidney] Plotkin allowed the class time to discuss our feelings, opinions and emotions. I was so moved by my fellow classmates and I realized that I am not alone in my hatred of this situation or in my fears for the future. My friends were there to listen to my fears, embar­rassments, anger and picked me up after I broke down,” Venkat said.

William Dwyer ’20 of Irvington, NY watched the election at the Young Democrats viewing par­ty in UpC. “I met friends there and we stayed up way too late, just sitting on the floor in a corner of the room, chewing at our nails anxiously,” Dwyer recalled.

“I simply couldn’t believe it. Everyone around me was livid, staring at the walls with blank fac­es. Disbelief quickly changed into disappointment, then fear, then anger. The worst part was leaving UpC. I just remember walking back to my dorm in silence, squeezing my friend’s hand. I fell asleep that night to the sound of screams in the quad.”

The screams resonating from the quad were the product of an impromptu “primal scream,” a Vas­sar tradition usually reserved for finals week.

“Election night was rough for everyone,” Dwyer said. “The day after was even worse. Walking to class in the morning felt like a funeral. Vassar was mourning.”

A few days later, Dwyer and some friends trav­eled to New York City to protest, like many other Vassar students.

“The point of going down to the city for me was not to protest per say, but rather to show that even in bad times like this, people stick together,” Dw­yer explained. “Whether you like it or not, Trump is our next president, and there is nothing we can do about that. What we can do, however, is support and fight for those who will be most affected.”

Dwyer said the opportunity to go to New York City is something he will not soon forget: “I was incredibly moved to see so many people in the streets, holding signs like ‘we will fight for you,’ chanting their hearts out marching across Manhat­tan. I felt like I was fighting for something so much bigger than just me.”

Isabelle Hart accompanied Dwyer to the pro­test. “I thought it was important for me to go be­cause I’m a New Yorker, and I wanted to be around the people I grew up with, people of every race, gender and religion possible,” Hart said. “I wanted to be reminded of what it’s like to be home, where everyone belongs. I wanted to support some close friends who feel very unsafe right now.”

Brian Lee ’20, an international student from Taiwan, felt let down by the country he wanted so earnestly to be accepted into.

“I came to the United States when I was 14, with the excitement of seeing ‘the land of opportunity, diversity and freedom’ for myself,” Lee said. “As an international student who admittedly has assimi­lated because I thought that’s all I would have to do to integrate, I abstained from accepting this presi­dential election result. It is hard to see my effort to fit in with the American people becoming mean­ingless. It is difficult to imagine that many people I have relied upon secretly betrayed me.”

With many students still reeling and recovering from one of the most momentous events of their generation, Vassar treks on. Students like Lee are left to process both the causes and repercussions of this election cycle, but despite these difficult introspections, they’ll have to move forward with these burdens while tackling their usual routines. As President Obama stated, the sun still rose after the night of Nov. 9. Classes on Wednesday after the election resumed as usual.

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