TRUMP: Higher ed reacts to historic upset

Students, faculty, and administrators pull through a tense night

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States on Tuesday—in what multiple outlets called a "stunning upset" against democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

It was a long and tense night; Trump did not claim victory until nearly 3:00a.m. Wednesday morning.

Early reactions on college campuses run the gamut from anxiety to pleasant surprise to pragmatism.

Students, alumni, and faculty of Wellesley College—the women's college that is Hillary Clinton's alma mater—gathered, expecting to celebrate the election of the first female president. Instead, they ended the night shocked and dismayed.

"I'm scared for the country, I'm scared for our reputation, and I'm scared for people who are barely getting by," said one alumna.

Wellesley President Paula A. Johnson consoled students after the election result became clear.

"This election may not turn out the way we hoped, but whatever the result, we stand for justice, we stand for equity, and we stand for a path forward for every single person," she said, adding, "We must be part of the momentum that will take us forward." 

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Meanwhile, members of the College Republicans at Georgetown University were divided. The chapter was one of several that did not endorse Trump.

One freshman in the group, a Trump supporter, said he was pleasantly surprised when Trump pulled ahead. The student explained that he primarily supported Trump because he wanted a conservative justice to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, the student expressed skepticism about some of Trump's other proposals. "I don't think he's going to build a wall," the student told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "He's not going to be able to ban all Muslims from the United States."

Other members of the College Republicans said they voted for write-in candidates—or even Clinton.

"I'm not doing it with 100-percent enthusiasm by any means," said the student who voted for Clinton. "It's just a combination of Donald Trump's lack of policy knowledge and sexist, racist, homophobic remarks."

Some faculty members told reporters they worry that Trump's victory signals an anti-intellectualism movement that could bring new challenges for colleges.

"That's the risk of trying to appeal to the everyday man," said Franita Tolson, a professor of voting rights at Florida State University. "By de-emphasizing the importance of education, you run into a situation where education is put on the back burner and then institutions of higher education experience significant cuts and then we have trouble preparing the next generation of voters," she said.

Some higher education leaders are preparing for difficult discussions on campus.

"This political debate has been one of the most contentious in our history, and we would expect some of those issues would play out on campuses," says Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA, a professional organization for student affairs administrators. He predicts student protests over diversity and inclusiveness will resurface.

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But preparing students to grapple with these issues is exactly what higher education is for, says Nancy Thomas, director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University. The institute plans to open a room with a large sheet of paper where students can write their thoughts for others to read and respond to (Field et al., Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/9; De Santis et al., Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/9; Flegenheimer/Barbaro, New York Times, 11/9; Tumulty et al., Washington Post, 11/9).


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