Gaining Post-Election Perspective

CSS Students, Faculty and Staff share their thoughts

DyAnna Grondahl

It is now a month past the election of 2016 and a little over a month away from Trump’s presidency. It is needless to say that many people are both very hurt and upset about the outcome, while others are quite happy, and some remain surprised, but indifferent. Politics has long been an uncomfortable topic to discuss for many. But, now more than ever, it is important that conversations over politics happen. Whether people are disappointed, indifferent or delighted, the conversation continues.

St. Scholastica sophomore Rayne Rivas voted third party because she had hopes that this term could hold an administration in which new ideas would be taken into account. She mentioned her disappointment in the community’s reaction to the results.

“While I am not happy with the fact that Trump won, I still feel that the classes that were canceled should have remained in session,” said Rivas.

“I understand the fear that most feel about President-elect Trump, but I still hope that he will some how unite the country, and that he will disregard his former promises of separation, racism and sexism,” said Rivas.

Rivas concluded that, moving forward, the CSS community can do things to kickstart positive change. “For example,” said Rivas, “we can support the social justice clubs that we have on campus and be hyper aware of our personal decisions.”

Many students have been very vocal with their opinions regarding the election. Some, not so much. Sydney Sanchez, a CSS sophomore, is part of the latter. Her relative quietness stems from her personal feelings of safety. Sanchez, a multiethnic bisexual woman, was upset by the result

“In all honesty, I don’t know how to move past it … I’m strong in my identity but I’m questioning now if it’s safe for me to be outside of campus or my social circles,” said Sanchez. “And I’ve never thought I would have to feel this way in this century.”

Sanchez went on to further discuss the results through the scope of how America is often referred to as the greatest nation in the world. She called attention to the idea that the US was built by and for white men on the genocide of Native Americans, oppression of people of color, and “a culture of people listening to money instead of morals.” These points were followed with her questioning how people are supposed to celebrate a country that was born out of a false sense of supremacy and belief that the USA is a haven of freedom while a majority of citizens are discriminated against based on characteristics like skin color, religion, and sexuality.

“Electing Donald Trump has shown me that some people in this country are incredibly and disgustingly selfish,” Sanchez said. “The voters may have friends who are people of color, part of the LGBT community, etc. but Trump’s comments did not deter them enough to vote against him. Sure they’re aware of the implications of his words, but they don’t care about them. They prioritize their well-being over the possible safety and acceptance of a majority of Americans. The possibility of equality should not make so many people scared. It’s not like they’re trying to systematically discriminate them or create a culture that threatens a majority of people are at risk based on their looks or identities.”

The faculty and staff are processing the election just as students are. And, just like the students, they also have opinions about the election, and what is to come. John Bauman, Professor of Education and Dignitas, shared his concerns regarding the election results.

“I work hard in listening to my students. Since the election, I’ve learned many students who voted for anyone other than [Hillary Clinton] do not feel safe here. They do not feel they can speak about their views. They are concerned about reprisals from faculty … Many have experienced numerous microaggressions during discussions and communications from college personnel during classes, organized meetings, and presentations from both peers, staff and faculty members. If we are to be an open community of learners who care for and love all, we have some serious work to do.

As Bauman made these comments he mentioned that he experiences some fear in sharing his thoughts. “I feel like I’m taking an immense risk just by sharing this information. Students, you are not alone. Your willingness to share your experiences has strengthened me to speak the truth.”

Dr. Bret Amundson, Choral Director and Director of Dignitas and General Education, had a lot to say about the election. While discussing post-election conversations, Amundson held strongly to one of the points of James Forman’s talk – listening. Amundson agreed with Forman that it important for people to listen to others who don’t necessarily think like them. He followed that point by saying that, prior to the election he to was guilty and had only been listening to people who share his same opinions and beliefs.

“We’ve got work to do,” Amundson repeated throughout his interview. At one point he followed the quote with an affirmation of the duty of the college, “from an higher learning perspective, we are trying to create excellent, well-rounded, thoughtful citizens.” He looked to the election as an affirmation as to why people, including himself, need to be here, and said that individuals, he included, can’t just sit back.

According to Amundson, the first step is to look at the issues through the lens of our Benedictine values. While political conversations often center around Trump, it really isn’t all about him. All the while, Amundson believes Trump is both our fault and our creation. The hyper partisanship of the United States helped create the Donald. Hyper partisanship stems from the television we watch, the articles we read, the way we look at posts on Facebook.

“It doesn’t do us any good to talk about him, but it does do us well to look at the issues through the lens of our five key elements of Dignitas,” Amundson said.

Amundson concluded that there is a dire need for good discussions about the issues, noting that the Dignitas faculty devoted nearly an entire meeting to how they are to have these conversations. People need to know the ins and outs to the issues. Amundson suggested that perhaps the conversations would benefit by individuals setting aside their own beliefs and think about the issues in terms of our values and Dignitas key elements. Believing that having that sort of discussion would expand the minds of many individuals. Conversations regarding politics and issues would also improve without the use of “you” statements.

“We don’t want students to feel threatened,” said Amundson. “Whether or not we actually threaten them, it’s internalized, they feel it, and it is true to them.”

The main goal is for education. Students, for the most part, are here for a values-based education, or are they? Amundson mentioned that one of the reasons students should want to come to St. Scholastica is for the values-based education. He identified a dilemma in asking the question, “How do we really get students to think about why they think what they think?” He argued that for whatever people believe, they should be able to cite references, ideas, and have back up. He referred to an exercise called the “5 Why’s” that he used when he taught Dignitas. By asking them why continuously, he pushed his students to back up and think about what they said or thought. In the exercise, the answer “I don’t know” was allowed, but never ended the conversation.

Amundson moved his focus to what we can do on campus. He found that he doesn’t see much on-campus advocacy for really much of anything. Of course, people care about issues and things, but simultaneously “we aren’t out making a big deal about them.” He reiterated the phrase that we have work to do, and if we want to make change, we have to get started, because things aren’t just going to happen. He mentioned some forms of the work to be done include sending emails and letters, signing petitions, and actually reading articles and being informed.

The end of the interview was about critical conversations, and how people often don’t have the opportunity to get to the heart of them, or even have them at appropriate times. When it comes to issues like sexual violence, many people’s first exposures don’t come until post-high school, but Amundson pushed, “When do we start having these conversations? Are we doing a good job of educating people beforehand?” He talked about prevention and how we shape our presentations about delicate issues. Statistics are solid, but they don’t get to the intricacies. Amundson placed importance on critical conversations that, of course, have facts supporting them.

He concluded the interview by saying, “There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, which is why I say we have a lot of work to do, and while we care about the issues, caring isn’t necessarily enough.”