The results of the 2016 election shook Wellesley College to its core. The morning after, the black clothing worn by students and faculty complemented the overcast sky, signifying a campus in mourning. Although Wellesley alumna Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ’69 loss made the election result more personal for some students and faculty members, it was the deeper implications of the outcome and subsequent events that have frightened the community. The day after the election, Babson students in a pickup truck with a large Donald Trump flag waving out the back came to campus and harassed students of color outside of Harambee House, the space for students of African descent on campus. Though shaken, students did not allow this event to silence them.
Throughout the week, students, faculty, and staff have come together to grieve, process, and make plans for further action. On Thursday night, College Government (CG) hosted an event for students to discuss their feelings regarding the outcome of the election. Dean Bate, Dean Tenser, and Robin Cook Nobles Ed.D of the Stone Center were in attendance to offer administrative support.
Students at the CG event passionately discussed their fears, worries, and anger regarding the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Afterwards students stayed behind to talk amongst themselves and offer emotional support to one another.
Cook Nobles was happy to see student involvement in planning healing events, and emphasized Stone Center support for student planned events.
“If we offer it students don’t come, but if they organize students come. So, I want students to know that if they are having support and they want our presence, let us know and we will try to come. The Counseling staff is in complete support of the students and available to them during this difficult time,” commented Nobles.
Dr. Nobles has scheduled half-hour appointments through Wednesday for students to come to the Stone Center to speak with professional staff without a wait time. As of November 10, 3 of the 7 appointments she has created were used. She will continue to schedule them depending on the demand from the student body.
According to Karen Su ’19, Vice President and Women Colleges representative for Wellesley Students for Hillary, the presence of administration at the CG talk back was very moving because it was demonstrative of the support from varying areas on campus. “I really appreciated the administration as well as a representative of the Stone Center being at the CG talk just because I think it is really important to show them what they are dealing with, in terms of what kind of trauma we are dealing with on campus. And, it has not only affected one person, it’s affecting everyone,” Su commented.
After the CG talk back there was a talk back hosted by Wellesley Students for Hillary. At this talk back, students spent some time discussing their emotions post election, but the conversation was mostly focused on taking action in light of the election. The executive board of Wellesley Students for Hillary encouraged members to get involved with local elections and to prepare for upcoming midterm elections in 2018.
“That [the talk back] gave me hope because I realized that now people are activated in the sense that before they weren’t so activated. They didn’t realize their stake in the election. Now they do, and they are activating that. They are angry, but angry in the sense that they are willing to be productive with that anger,” said Su.
She did realize however that it took some time for her to get to that point personally. “My stages of grief obviously have changed. I was angry, I wanted to be militant, and I wanted to fight back. Basically, voting this man into office has validated and legitimized every single horrible thing that has happened since. I think I have started to process that it won’t get us anywhere, it will only further even more pain, violence and hatred,” Su emphasized.
Students were not the only body that organized events after the surprising election results. The administration has been a pillar of support during this difficult time on Wellesley’s campus. The night the final results were posted, President Paula A. Johnson addressed distraught alumni, students, faculty, and staff in attendance at the watch party in The Field House. In her final remarks before the The Field House closed for the night, she comforted her audience by emphasizing Wellesley’s commitment to justice and equality for all.
On Friday, President Johnson led a peace walk from the academic quad to Harambee House to reclaim the spaces on campus. She ended the walk at the shores of Lake Waban and invited students to address the College community. They gave messages of hope, solidarity, and unity. Leaving the lake, a group of students led the procession in a rendition of the iconic song of the Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome”. President Johnson linked arms with students and sang along to the powerful song.
After the Peace Rally, President Johnson commented on unity on campus and her faith in the community’s perseverance.
“It’s so important for Wellesley to come together in community–– our students, our staff, our faculty. We need to understand that there is a history to Wellesley, that we have been through alot and that we will get through this moment in time together.”