"Love and peace will overcome this hate": Mount Holyoke reacts to the election results

BY HANNAH ROACH '17 & LEAH WILLINGHAM '17

The morning after Donald Trump was chosen as the president-elect of the United States was drizzly and quiet. Students walked with bags under their eyes — many had stayed up to see the results come in early Wednesday morning.

The election results have shaken the Mount Holyoke College campus. Many students and community members believed the presidency would be easily won by Secretary Hillary Clinton. The gap widened between Clinton and Trump throughout the night, until Trump secured 279 electoral college votes. Pennsylvania ended up being one of the critical states, with its 20 electoral votes going to Trump.

Although many traditionally blue states, like Pennsylvania, did turn red over the course of the night, Massachusetts, the country’s liberal stronghold, supported Clinton with 52.4 percent of the vote. Following her lead was Trump at 28.9 percent and libertarian Gary Johnson at 6.5 percent.

That sentiment of support and loss for Secretary Clinton was pervasive throughout the Mount Holyoke campus on Wednesday. Several students even suggested that the administration cancel classes, but the day went on according to schedule. Some individual classes were canceled, while others granted extensions on assignments. The school and many campus organizations opened several spaces, such as cultural houses and the community based learning center in the Weissman Center, in hopes of providing safe spaces on campus for students struggling after the election.

Other students did what they could to lighten the mood. Ela Pemmaraju ’20 walked around campus Wednesday morning with a Free Hugs sign displayed on the front of her sweatshirt.

“My roommate and I did this together [to spread] positivity,” Pemmaraju said.

The rainy day didn’t stop students from protesting in front of the library on Wednesday afternoon, either. In a rally titled “Sit-in Protest: Love Trumps Hate,” a crowd of approximately 100 faculty, staff and students gathered to sing the lyrics to “We Shall Overcome,” and held signs, one sharing the lyrics of The Beatles’ song “Let It Be.” Another sign read, “AmeriKKKa was never great,” referencing the fact that the KKK endorsed Donald Trump.

One sign, “Love and peace will overcome his hate,” was laid along with flowers and a candle on Mary Lyon’s grave. Mary Pura ’17 wrote, “I put the sign down. My friends Rachele Carbutt [’17] and Sarah Braverman [’17] made the sign. After putting the sign on the grave, Rachele and our friend Leora Sharma [’17] and I put our hands on the grave and had a moment of meditation.” Pura and other students felt comforted around the grave —“We needed to get away from the noise and find peace somewhere. We talked to Mary Lyon in a way, and said we would continue on and continue what she started.”

Several of the signs are now on display in the entrance of Blanchard Campus Center.

Acting President Sonya Stephens, Dean Marcella Hall and other administrators were present for the beginning of the rally, but left part-way through the event.

The rally featured a space where some students were able to address the crowd with their stories and their fears for the upcoming presidency. The discussion continued into how white allies can support their friends and classmates who are people of color in the future. Many fear that the Trump presidency will negatively impact minorities, including people of color, undocumented individuals, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims, Jews, disabled people and low-income individuals, among others.

Posters have started appearing on campus, advocating for self care, unity and compassion. Almost every lamppost throughout campus has posters celebrating community support.

The Mount Holyoke administration set up a community M & Cs with acting President Sonya Stephens in Blanchard on Wednesday evening.

According to a spreadsheet compiled by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Clinton won the vote in South Hadley with 5,175 votes, compared with 3,254 votes for Trump. Johnson followed with 380 votes and Stein with 179. Trump achieved victory in neighboring Granby, however, where 1,620 voted for Clinton and 1,864 for Trump.

Mount Holyoke students had a variety of responses to the president-elect, as well as the election process. One student, Patricia Fox ’18, said that the two candidates were far from ideal — “my opinion is that we were presented with two turds. You can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.”

Kassy Dillon ’18, president of the College Republicans, said that while Trump wasn’t originally her first choice for Republican nominee, she embraced him in the general election because she believes “Hillary is corrupt and her scandals would be detrimental to our nation.”

“I was very critical of Trump,” Dillon said. “I didn’t think he was going to win. He had my vote solely because he is not Hillary.”

Dillon said she understands any frustrations Americans might have with Trump, but hopes the parties can band together to support the new president.

“I can assure you my own party is very worried as well,” she said. “He will have a hard time getting anything passed in Congress.”

Dillon did express discomfort with some of the reactions she experienced during the viewing party in Blanchard. She reported, “profanity, middle fingers and threats on social media.” Other responses were more positive, explains Dillon: “I really applaud the community coming together and keeping each other’s spirits up,” she said. “That is productive, threatening me with violence is not.”

President of the College Democrats Ashley Lund ’17 addressed her organization in an email on Wednesday in which she stated, “My heart aches as I write to you all, knowing how much we have invested in this campaign and all that is at stake. Today has been a day of grief, and we must take the time to heal.”

Another student, Shahd Al-Jawhari ’17, when asked about her choice of candidate, replied immediately, “not Trump.” She elaborated, saying that while she voted in Massachusetts, her family lives abroad. She remarked that this left her in a privileged position: “Luckily, I can always go back to my family’s home and live with them ... But there are people who are undocumented, or basically just being a minority in this country, when you don’t have any other place to go and you have to deal with all of this.”

When asked about the election, Thu Dao ’19 of Vietnam said she was worried about how a Trump presidency could impact the experience of international students attending college in the United States.

“I just find the result pretty surprising and kind of disappointing, not only for U.S. citizens, but for a large amount of people living in this country,” Dao said.

Vicky Wang ’19, another international student from Beijing, China, expressed her disappointment that neither candidate seemed to address experiences of racism and discrimination of Asian Americans.

“I think both parties didn’t care about Asian American conditions,” Wang said. “There are two evils who can’t care enough. That’s the dilemma we face.”

Annie Kuenning ’17 said this election was particularly poignant at a historically women’s college: “I think that this election is a prime example of why women’s colleges are still relevant. Society sets much higher standards for the way that we are supposed to behave and these expectations are often incredibly unrealistic. If anything, being here is teaching us to fight stronger and work harder.”

Kuenning believes that there would still have been a lot of work to do even if Clinton had won: “I don’t think that it would have been the end of the battle. Having a woman president would not have changed the misogynistic discourses that are embedded within society. If anything, it would have given people hope that if they too work hard, then anything truly is possible.”

Members of the South Hadley community seemed hesitant to comment on the election. An employee at Crazy Moon declined to comment, saying that the store has a policy against speaking about political issues.

Several faculty members who declined to comment suggested reaching out to tenured faculty. Most professors did not respond to such requests.

Vinnie Ferraro, Professor Emeritus of politics, wrote in an email that he was surprised at the election results.

“The polls were off target and they obviously do not know how to contact many of the people who ultimately voted for Mr. Trump,” Ferraro said. “That ignorance of the polity is telling evidence of how awed our understanding of the electorate actually is. The vote was a repudiation of globalization — the economics of free trade and the free flow of people — and it is testimony to how angry the people who have been disenfranchised by globalization are.”

Ferraro said he doesn’t think that Trump has a coherent plan for the next four years, and doubted whether the business mogul would work well with certain constituencies within the Republican Party.

“I suspect that things will be chaotic and muddy for some time,” he said.

In the early morning, Dean of Students Marcella Hall explained that she and acting President Stephens were currently drafting an email for the student body. The email arrived a few hours later.

“Wherever you are on the political spectrum, this is a moment to join together in support of one another,” Stephens wrote. “As a community, one united by our membership of Mount Holyoke College, we must continue to make this place one of mutual respect and openness for all of our members, especially in a situation in which conflicting ideologies may divide us.”

Dean Hall prepared a statement, reflecting on how a historically women’s college like Mount Holyoke is affected.

“I think this election has illuminated many of our underlying strengths and vulnerabilities; in both our own MHC community and more broadly,” Hall wrote.

“I think it is important to note that our commonalities as a Mount Holyoke community do not mean everyone shares the same political identities, and by that I mean I know that within our student community, there is a great deal of variation which can be by political party, issue by issue, third party affiliations beyond the two party U.S. system or other political viewpoints. And the political diversity is important for us to remember as we move forward in our healing from this divisive election season.

“I was incredibly moved and inspired by our community today at the library. Bearing witness to the pain of our students was heartbreaking because I care very deeply about you all as students, and that raw and visceral grief stayed with me all day. I was proud of the students who organized and showed up and shared their truth and supported each other.”

Acting President Sonya Stephens wrote to Mount Holyoke News, emphasizing the significance of historically women’s colleges: “Mount Holyoke is a place where students nd their voice and their vocation, and engage in the kind of thinking and empathetic exchange that builds community and compassion. What this presidential campaign has shown us is that we need women’s engagement and leadership in public life more than ever.

“I believe that there is no better preparation for citizenship and democracy than a Mount Holyoke education, and that women’s colleges will continue to instill in their graduates the confidence and capacity to lead with distinction.” 

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