The President-elect is, as the country has been made painfully aware throughout this election cycle, highly controversial. He is opposed by the vast majority of Vassar students. Just look at the empirical evidence; in addition to the barrage of anti-Trump posts on Facebook and the general air of sadness cast upon campus after the election, students have been mobilizing by the dozens to go to NYC and protest Trump with a rare vigor.
I marched with some of these students, who took time out of their busy schedules to oppose a man who stands for things that would, in many cases, directly harm their safety and quality of life. Trump has invigorated their passions and created new fears for them.
Then there is the statistical evidence. I took a rough poll among Class of 2020 students, and more than three quarters of respondents said that they oppose Donald Trump, with about 13 percent saying they do not oppose him and about 10 percent saying they are unsure. While this is not an airtight poll (some called the question leading), and I am not by any measure a statistician, it is at the very least a representation of the general opposition towards Trump at Vassar.
One might argue that it is not the job of a student government to take a stand and be a force for activism. I would refer them to the mission statement on the VSA website which says, among other things, the VSA “shall represent the opinions of the student body, serving as a communications conduit to the Faculty, Administration, Trustees, Alumnae/i, the local community and beyond.” It is the VSA’s job to represent the opinion of the student body: a student body that fears and opposes Donald Trump. This can and should be done through legislation.
There is precedent for this kind of action. One particular example, still fresh in the minds of upperclassmen, is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions–or BDS–resolution. According to the BDS website, the resolution “encourages the reconsideration of Vassar College’s economic contributions to human rights violations worldwide,” specifically referring to those violations by Israel on the Palestinians (“What is BDS,” BDS Movement website).
This resolution was passed by the VSA and it, along with its amendment counterpart (which would have “prevented VSA funds from being spent on products listed on the resolution because of their ties to human rights abuses”), and voted on by a school-wide referendum. They both failed to pass. According to The Miscellany News, “The resolution received 573 ‘no’ votes and 503 ‘yes’ votes, while the amendment garnered 601 ‘no’ votes and 475 ‘yes’ votes.” This means that not only was it a divisive issue, but a majority of the students actually opposed it. Yet the VSA went ahead with it despite heavy opposition.
So why would this resolution be more successful? Well for one, it would be supported by a vastly larger majority of students. It would also be taking a stand on an issue that touches many more Vassar students than those highlighted in BDS. Few of us are the victims of human rights violations in the Gaza Strip, but many of us have witnessed racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of hate firsthand. This is in no way an ethereal matter, it is a physical one that affects us all in our day-to-day lives.
The denunciation of Trump may also do a lot to help Vassar’s image in the world. BDS, despite the support it received, damaged Vassar’s reputation. The Wall Street Journal, in an article about BDS, stated, “A number of events over the past two years have transformed a prestigious institution into a parody ripe for ridicule,” referring specifically to BDS and the pro-Palestine movement. BDS’s defeat was applauded by the Administration, as well as by alumnae/i, many of whom saw it as a misuse of the VSA’s power. One alumnus described the defeat as “a watershed moment.” The resolution I am proposing would help reaffirm Vassar’s place as one of the most politically active schools in the country, while focusing on issues that actually touch many Vassar students. It could just be the cure for the Vassar’s ailing post-BDS reputation.
There are those who may argue with this resolution for various reasons. You might believe that this ignores the minority, but still valid, opinion of the Trump supporters and may foster an increasingly hateful environment for them. They may argue that we shouldn’t be quick to judge Trump before we’ve seen his performance in office (though, winning the presidency is not a big “reset” button, and I will get to that in a moment). They may say he has already started to roll back many of his more radical proposals and reverse his stance on controversial statements he made during the campaign.
The importance of this resolution is the nuances that go into it. I’m not telling the VSA how to do their job. They can do this how they feel best. What may be best is to craft it in a way that denounces the ideas he stood for in both the recent and more distant past such as misogyny, racism, homophobia (choosing Mike Pence for VP), antisemitism (appointing Steve Bannon) and Islamophobia to name a few.
On the other hand, one must focus on his present actions too. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and end government corruption. That will be awfully hard to do with the countless Washington insiders, members of Congress and former lobbyists that Trump is stacking his administration and Cabinet with. That’s just the hypocrisy. What about the lies? Just recently he took a settlement on his Trump University case, a case he said he would never settle because of his undeniable innocence. Not to mention the lies about Black crime rates, trade causing job loss, immigrants taking our jobs and committing more crimes, etc.
Donald Trump has made the issues of white supremacy, misogyny and hate such easy ones to oppose. Hate has a face now. That face is Donald Trump. He has made it easy to oppose racial discrimination, sexism and homophobia because he has brought it in front of cameras, to massive rallies and now to the doorstep of the White House. He made Steven Bannon, an actual white supremacist and antisemite, one of his top strategists. He is in the same powerful position that Karl Rove, often referred to as George Bush’s puppet master, was in. What better way to tell the world that Vassar College denounces hate than by denouncing its posterboy? There isn’t one.
That brings me to my next point. This proposal would have a measurable effect: it would send a message to students and the world. The aforementioned VSA Mission Statement states, “The VSA shall serve, represent, and promote the interests and welfare of the students of Vassar College.” This resolution would do exactly that.
This is in the best interest of the Latinx or other foreign student who is concerned about criticism about their residence here in the United States. It can show them that Vassar is a sanctuary for those from outside the U.S. or those who are undocumented. It’s in the best interest of Jews who want to know for sure that VSA opposes antisemitic forces such as the aforementioned Bannon infiltrating our government. It is in the best interest of women who are victims of, or are concerned about, sexual assault by showing them that the VSA stands against champions of misogyny and sexual assault. It is in the best interest of those LGBTQ+ students who feel concerned about homophobia and hate crimes.
I would be proud to introduce this resolution to the VSA myself if necessary. I will form an org, hold rallies, lead groups to protests in New York. This would be not only good for Vassar’s image, but more importantly for the many students who feel threatened by the future Trump administration.
Take a stand, VSA. Don’t acquiesce. Show the world that this is not an institution that will tacitly accept hatred and ignorance.