College leaders aim to ease student fears about era of Trump
Bard College on Friday addressed a “world turned upside down” by the election of Donald Trump as president, characterizing him as a person who has cultivated deep divisions regarding race and other matters.
A two-hour program featuring Bard President Leon Botstein and journalism professor Mark Danner was put on in response to a sense of shock, especially on college campuses, over Trump’s election victory and his potential policies.
Botstein promised the protection of Bard students who are subjected to harassment be people who might feel empowered by Trump’s history
of disparaging of women, minorities and immigrants.
“Our security and dean of students, staff, all of us are now very aware of this issue,” he said. “... We will work directly with law-enforcement authorities to ensure that your rights, that your freedoms and you safety is protected to the best of our abilities.”
The Associated Press reported Friday that its staff and local media outlets across the country had identified more than 20 racially charged incidents at schools and universities since Election Day.
Regarding Trump’s tough rhetoric regarding immigrants, Botstein said: “I have no traffic with the anti-immigrant sentiment and the exclusion of people who are here and not offering them an education. They can only contribute positively to the nation.”
Danner said Trump’s propensity toward “scapegoating” could lead to making enemies in the Congress even though the House and Senate will have Republican majorities.
“It’s a Congress that has different goals than he does, and he is faced with enacting polices, many of which ... aren’t really achievable,”
the professor said. “It seems within that fact lies the beginning of certain failures that he can be expected to suffer in the next year or the next couple years.”
Danner said he worries about the prospect of Trump’s high-level appointees including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“Trump has surrounded himself with a bevy of thugs,” he said.
Botstein said improving the U.S. education system is the cure to a Trump presidency.
“The biggest gap in the numbers [between Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters] was between the educated and the uneducated,” he said.
Other colleges in the region also have recognized the anxiety over Trump being elected president and are addressing concerns about changing attitudes.
SUNY New Paltz on Friday issued a press release saying programs are being scheduled to help students feel safe.
“I know that we are all, in different ways and in different spaces, trying to work through a range of intense emotions, including fear and pain, to the outcome of this week’s presidential election,” college President Donald Christian said. “We condemn hate speech and bias
acts in our community and recognize that anytime they occur, they harm the entire community.”
Christian added that the campus has a “diverse array of different races, religions, national origins, sexual and gender orientations/identities, ages, physical abilities, intellectual interests and viewpoints. This is a time when our ability to live with ambiguity and change will be fully tested, and as college president, I urge patience and tolerance with each other.”
Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, has scheduled a “unity event” for Wednesday. And the college’s president, David Yellen, issued a message prior to the election that called for respect regardless of the outcome.
“After a divisive and often dispiriting year, may the members of our college community provide an example of civic virtue in all of our speech and action,” he wrote.
Botstein on Friday tried to soothe fears to by pointing Trump’s demonstrated lack of focus.
“I’m frightened the way you’re frightened, but also this guy has never done anything that worked,” he said. “So I don’t want to make humor out of it, but we’re not looking the most valuable player in the National League. This is a guy who couldn’t get on the team.”